Tuesday 16 January 2018

Kelly backs Burton despite Labour's dire opinion poll ratings

Minister for Environment, Community & Local Government, Alan Kelly TD. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Minister for Environment, Community & Local Government, Alan Kelly TD. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

ENVIRONMENT Minister Alan Kelly has backed Tánaiste Joan Burton's leadership despite the Labour Party's dismal showing in recent opinion polls.

Mr Kelly said the Tánaiste inherited the party at a difficult time and was doing a "fantastic job" since she took over from Eamon Gilmore (pictured).

He also warned that people will be faced with a choice of voting for stability and growth or "absolute chaos" at the next election. "I wouldn't like to be making predictions of election results at this stage because I certainly believe from a voter intention point of view there is a long way to go yet," Mr Kelly added.

In Labour circles Mr Kelly is considered a natural successor to Ms Burton should she step down as leader.

Ms Burton took charge of the party after Mr Gilmore stepped down following a disastrous local election campaign last year.

At the same time, Mr Kelly successfully contested the deputy leadership, seeing off competition from Sean Sherlock, Michael McNamara and Ciara Conway.

Labour hoped Ms Burton would rejuvenate the party once she was elected as leader.

But a 'Sunday Independent'/Millward Brown opinion poll has the party's support at just 6pc - meaning Labour would have around 10 TDs in the Dáil after the next general election.

The party's support has been slashed by more than 60pc since it entered Government with 19pc of the vote in 2011.

A lot of Labour's support has transferred to Sinn Féin which is now the country's most popular political party, slightly ahead of Fine Gael.

Ms Burton's personal support rose slightly in the recent poll but she is still the least popular leader of all the political parties.

The coming months will be vital for Labour as the country edges closer to a general election and pressure will increase on Ms Burton to restore confidence in the party.

Labour was badly damaged during the recent abortion controversy and party stalwart Anne Ferris was forced to leave the parliamentary party after voting against the Government.

Labour asked Fine Gael for a free vote on a bill legislating for fatal foetal abnormalities but was shot down by its senior Coalition partner.

There have been concern among some Labour members in recent months that the party was not standing up to Fine Gael. However, Labour's strong opposition to the sale of the State's share in Aer Lingus to multinational airline company IAG was seen as a victory for the party.

Senior Labour figures say the party is determined to see out its full term in office and will not pull out of Government before an election which is scheduled for early next year.

But many TDs and Senators believe there is a strong possibility they will not be returning to Leinster House because of the lack of public confidence in the party.

Ms Burton's own seat in her Dublin West Constituency is far from safe and it is likely she will be in a dogfight to retain it.

Irish Independent

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