Thursday 22 March 2018

Lots of TDs asked me to run for leader – Howlin

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin
Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin
Fionnan Sheahan

Fionnan Sheahan

BRENDAN Howlin says he was approached by "lots" of Labour Party TDs and senators to run for the leadership of the party against Joan Burton.

But the Public Expenditure Minister told the Irish Independent it would not have been possible to carry out his current role in Cabinet and be leader of the party.

And he says he is not being presumptuous to think he would have beaten Ms Burton to become Tanaiste.

The minister says the next leader of the party will come from the "next generation".

The Wexford TD ran for the Labour leadership twice, losing in 1997 to Ruairi Quinn and in 2002 to Pat Rabbitte.

Mr Howlin says he did think about running this time out, but he says he had decided never to run for leader again when he stayed out of the contest in 2007, which was won by Eamon Gilmore.

"No. I made up my mind when I didn't stand when Pat Rabbitte resigned. I didn't stand then. I think the next leader of the Labour Party will be the next generation. I think that's right.

"When Pat stood down I made a decision not to stand and Eamon was elected and I think that was a permanent decision to be made at that stage," he said.

"You know, obviously it's flattering in recent times to get lots of calls from lots of the parliamentary colleagues," he added.

Mr Howlin said he did briefly consider running for the post on foot of those calls after Mr Gilmore stood down following the local and European elections.

"Sure of course you do for a little while. All of us like the notion of leading our party. That's one of the things you want to do. But I am very conscious of the role I am playing right now and I don't think I could have done that and be leader of the party," he said.

"I think there is a job of work to be done as leader within the party in the immediate aftermath of the very poor election result we have had. And I don't think that the time my role here demands, literally fixed in this office, would be fair to the party. Not that I would be presumptuous that I could have won the election, of course," he added.

Ms Burton easily beat new Communications Minister Alex White, then a junior minister, in the leadership contest. Mr Howlin rejects suggestions the lack of a Cabinet minister to compete against Ms Burton meant the contest was lacking.

"The leadership campaign was an internal exercise in people voicing very strongly held views. And I don't think the personalities made any difference to that. It was just a platform for people to voice a view and I was really impressed by the numbers who turned out, because I thought a lot of people would be really disillusioned after the election and might just walk away. But, no, they want it. And it is hugely heartening. The dynamic, that core of people, that view of people that have always been in the Labour Party are loyal to the concept of the Labour Party.

"Now they can be very critical of decisions made and all of the rest. But the essential core of the party is very strong," he said.

Irish Independent

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