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Saturday 18 November 2017

Phil Prendergast has had 'no contact' with Gilmore

Labour MEP had called on Eamon Gilmore to resign

Nicola Anderson and Niall O'Connor

LABOUR MEP, Phil Prendergast has admitted that she is "in the bold corner" in the party for her comments calling on Eamon Gilmore to resign as leader.

The outspoken Ireland South candidate met with Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin at Carlow College today on a pre-arranged visit.

The pair spoke privately for some minutes behind closed doors.

Publicly, Minister Howlin said that he "did not know that Phil Prendergast was going to make such a statement this morning" and said she had been "wrong to call for Mr Gilmore's resignation."

They subsequently had lunch together along with local Labout TD Ann Phelan and party workers, laughing and in good spirits.

Minister Howlin subsequently posed for photographs with Prendergast, walking hand in hand with her across the lawns of Carlow College.

However Prendergast did not canvass in Carlow as she had initially intended and left instead for Clonmel.

She told the Irish Independent that she has "the highest regard" for Brendan Howlin and that she also has an "excellent" personal relationship with the Tanaiste.

But she said she has not spoken with him since going public with her opinion about the party's future, wincing as she admitted: "I'm in the bold corner."

Prendergast had called for the Tánaiste to resign from his position for the good of the party, following an Irish Independent opinion poll, which put support for her candidacy in Ireland South at just 4 per cent.

Speaking in Athenry earlier, Gilmore said the MEP’s comments were “not helpful” and that he fully intended to continue leading the Labour party.

He said the party was “determined to do the things that are necessary to bring about recovery — even if at times some of those decisions are not popular”.

Meanwhile Joan Burton has described Ms Prendergast as a “person of substance” but insisted that  there is no question of a leadership challenge within the party.

The Social Protection Minister said that she was surprised by Ms Prendergast’s shock decision to call on Mr Gilmore to step aside just over three weeks from the local and European elections.

Speaking outside government buildings today, Ms Burton said her party colleague should focus on her own vote in the upcoming elections.

Despite being named by Ms Prendergast as a potential successor to Mr Gilmore, Ms Burton said no such prospect is on the cards

“Eamon Gilmore is the leader of the Labour Party. He has my support in that, and there is no leadership question. I want to be very firm on that,” she told RTE.

“What we are concerned with is having a conversation with people right around Ireland about what is best for the country...

“I think Phil is somebody who has used her membership of the European Parliament for the last number of years to deliver to people in the south of Ireland,” she added.

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