Rabbitte's leadership under fire
PAT Rabbitte's future as leader of the Labour Party was under growing threat last night as the recriminations over the failure of the Mullingar Accord pre-election pact with Fine Gael gained momentum.
On Friday night, the party's Wexford TD Brendan Howlin signalled the disquiet within Labour when he said that he and his party colleagues would now have to "give thought" to how they moved forward.
By yesterday, however, those comments were being echoed and added to by others within Labour's parliamentary party and wider organisation.
Speaking to the Sunday Independent last night, Dublin Central TD Joe Costello expressed his concern for the future of the Labour Party in the light of the Mullingar Accord's failure.
"We've been seriously stagnated now for the past three elections, 1997, 2002 and now in 2007. It's quite a serious matter for us. This raises serious questions of where the Labour Party is going. We have to look very closely at our strategy, and at our policies," Deputy Costello said.
Asked what the Labour Party would do now, he added: "At the moment, we need time to reflect and carry out an assessment of what we did. I don't think it is right that we have a place in government right now, and I don't think we are wanted there."
Dublin North West TD Roisin Shorthall also expressed the view that Labour now had to take stock of its strategy in the aftermath of the election.
In a thinly-veiled criticism of the Mullingar Accord and party leader Pat Rabbitte, she said: "We were always conscious of the fact that by us doing a deal with Fine Gael early on in the campaign, there was a possibility we would breathe new life into Fine Gael. I think that did happen to some extent, and there is always a danger for smaller parties in a partnership, and that was an issue."
Other senior Labour figures were already talking last night of Mr Rabbitte's removal.
Speaking to the Sunday Independent, one informed source said: "Pat Rabbitte is now in the same position as Ruairi Quinn in 2002 and Dick Spring in 1997. Pat Rabbitte adopted the approach of the Mullingar Accord and it didn't succeed. It is difficult to see how Pat can continue f as leader now."
Asked if Brendan Howlin - a former challenger for the leadership contest - would be the natural choice to succeed Mr Rabbitte in the event of his removal from the Labour Party leadership, the source said: "It is by no means a foregone conclusion."
Mr Rabbitte, for his part, appeared to be holding on to the leader's mantle grimly last night, and the possibility that he could yet bring the Labour Party into Government.