Tuesday 16 January 2018

Pressure grows on Gilmore as MEP tells him to resign

Blow as poll shows Labour leader has backing of just 42pc of party supporters

Niall O'Connor, Political Correspondent

A Labour MEP has called for Eamon Gilmore to be replaced as party leader ahead of next month's local and European elections.

Ireland South candidate Phil Prendergast has accused Mr Gilmore of being "unaware that Labour is heading towards wipe-out" in the polls.

The former senator last night described Mr Gilmore's leadership as being in a "state of chronic inability" and said the party is now on the brink of electoral meltdown.

"This is not personal at all but if this party is to survive, there needs to be a change of leadership. I'm doing this for Labour," she said in the wake of an Irish Independent/Millward Brown poll that placed her on just 4pc.

"We are getting hammered on the doorsteps and yet Eamon Gilmore adopts a low-profile approach. It is the inertia of this present leadership that will be the nail in our coffin," she added.

In a major embarrassment for the Tanaiste, Ms Prendergast said a scenario that involves Mr Gilmore replaced by deputy leader Joan Burton is necessary for the party's future. Her comments come as our exclusive poll today reveals a further blow for the junior coalition partner.

The party has a national rating of just 6pc, which, if replicated at next month's polls, will result in the loss of dozens of council seats and their two MEP positions.

Labour is significantly behind its coalition partner Fine Gael (25pc), as well as Fianna Fail and the Independents (23pc) and Sinn Fein (21pc).

MEP Phil Prendergast: 'Eamon Gilmore should be replaced'
MEP Phil Prendergast: 'Eamon Gilmore should be replaced'

In an even more worrying development for Mr Gilmore, just 42pc of Labour's own supporters believe he is doing a good job. Overall, seven out of 10 voters say they are dissatisfied with the Tanaiste's performance.

While Ms Prendergast has been critical of the direction of the party hierarchy in the past, the timing of this intervention is likely to bring Mr Gilmore's leadership into sharp focus.

The Tipperary politician admitted that she was "bitterly disappointed" at the findings of a poll in Saturday's Irish Independent, which placed her seventh in the four-seat Ireland South constituency.

She said that she had been contacted by a significant number of party members who say they are being "hammered" on the doorsteps because of party leader Mr Gilmore.

While there is no appetite in the party for a change of leader before the elections, Ms Prendergast's intervention will deepen the unrest about the party's unpopularity with the electorate.

The opinion polls on the European elections also show that senator Lorraine Higgins – who is running in Midlands-North-West – has virtually no chance of securing a seat.

While Emer Costello is faring better in Dublin, her 12pc rating means she is at best in a dogfight for the third and final seat.

Ms Prendergast now faces a severe slap-down after becoming the first member of the parliamentary party to call on Mr Gilmore to be replaced.

She said that she had held fire on her views for a significant period of time, but that Mr Gilmore's role in Labour's European election campaign was "virtually non-existent".

"A fresh leader would result in an injection of enthusiasm, which we desperately need. There has been talking about Labour reaching its tipping point; that time has come and I cannot stay silent any longer."

Irish Independent

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