Thursday 12 December 2019

Secret meetings and shock announcements for Gilmore

Tainaiste Eamon Gilmore at a press conference to announce his stepping down as leader of the Labour Party the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin. Picture: Arthur Carron
Tainaiste Eamon Gilmore at a press conference to announce his stepping down as leader of the Labour Party the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin. Picture: Arthur Carron

Niall O'Connor and Fionnan Sheahan

Separate meetings about Eamon Gilmore's leadership took place in the former townhouse of the Guinness family, Iveagh House, and a flat in a suburb where the famous brewer built housing for its workers.

In a conference room attached to the Minister for Foreign Affairs' office in Iveagh House, Mr Gilmore gathered his cabinet ministers, junior ministers and senior TDs to inform them of his resignation.

Most of those invited believed they'd been brought in to discuss Mr Gilmore's meeting with Taoiseach Enda Kenny, planned for later yesterday, about the Government's reaction to the local election wipeout, coalition policy and the forthcoming cabinet reshuffle.

But sitting around the long table, Mr Gilmore told them that he intended to resign.

He made it clear the decision was taken, and he had informed the Labour Party general secretary at 10.30am, who was already making arrangements for a leadership contest.

There was shock and sadness around the table. One by one the gathering paid tribute to Mr Gilmore and his role as leader, with the point being made that history would treat him well.

"We're sitting in Iveagh House, where there are busts of historic figures like Sean MacBride, and the leader has decided to fall on his sword," one TD said. Following the 3pm meeting, the group went downstairs to stand by Mr Gilmore as he announced his decision.

But earlier in the day, in the Dublin city area of Rialto – a suburb also synonymous with Guinness – a group of TDs had met to discuss the fallout from the local elections.

The so-called 'gang of eight' exchanged various phone calls and text messages on Saturday following Labour's drubbing at the polls.

Their plans to move on Mr Gilmore came to the attention of senior party figures such as chief whip Emmet Stagg, who contacted a number of the members to stave off the challenge.


But speculation within the party about Mr Gilmore's future intensified on Sunday night, after a Labour spokesperson confirmed that he would not be attending the Dublin European count at the RDS.

The gang of rebels held a five-hour meeting in Ciara Conway's apartment in Rialto yesterday, during which they decided to move on Mr Gilmore.

Kerry TD Arthur Spring was not at the meeting, but engaged with the group over the phone.

The group contacted parliamentary party chairman Jack Wall at 11am and informed him of their vote of no confidence.

A motion of no confidence was sent out at 12.30pm – with several members stating that they at this point believed Alex White would threaten to resign as junior health minister at 3pm.

The group was convinced that Mr White would publicly support their vote of no confidence and instigate a leadership challenge.

"It was Alex's support that fuelled our motion. While we don't all want him as leader, to have him on our side in taking out Gilmore was crucial," said one member present at the meeting.

The rebels insist that their dissatisfaction with the leader stemmed from the party's disastrous result at the Meath East by-election.

A number of the group last night expressed particular anger at Mr Gilmore's communication skills and his closeness to senior Labour backroom staff.

Irish Independent

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