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Labour fury as Gilmore fails to defend Burton

LABOUR is verging on "outright war" over the party leadership's treatment of Joan Burton, the Herald can reveal.

Tensions between the Social Protection Minister and Labour leader Eamon Gilmore have reached an "all-time low", party sources have admitted.

Ms Burton is facing alienation at the Cabinet table and was strongly rebuked over comments she made on the potential renegotiation of the Anglo promissory notes.

It comes as Mr Gilmore is working to improve his once teflon public image by becoming more visible.

Party sources have today said that Mr Gilmore's failure to come out "all guns blazing" and defend his deputy leader was "disappointing".

There is now a growing sense among Labour TDs and senators that the current Gilmore/Burton leadership will not last the full term.

One TD, who is not normally a Burton supporter, told the Herald: "The marriage won't last past Christmas."

Ms Burton is understood to have sparked a furious response from the Fine Gael side of the ministerial table after calling for a better EU deal on the country's €3.1bn bank debt.

The Dublin West TD made the comments in an interview with the Financial Times last month, before reiterating them when quizzed by Irish reporters.

The move sparked a furious reaction in party headquarters as Ms Burton had "not toed the Government's line".

A senior party source today said Ms Burton is being treated "unfairly" at the Cabinet table.

"Look, she sticks to her convictions and it has to be given to her, she has put everything into her role. By speaking out, she's annoyed Gilmore and several of the Fine Gaelers and she's being treated unfairly because of that."

Another TD, however, said the leadership is heading towards "outright war" and that Ms Burton will have "plenty of support".

"You look at Joan and you see she is standing up for herself and standing up for the party. If she gets bullied and the leadership do nothing, there'll be plenty of people furious about that."

The same TD said he could not see the relationship lasting "past Christmas".

Labour TDs and senators are bracing themselves for a tough Ard Fheis when the party faithful meets in Galway next month.

A number of issues in recent weeks -- most notably the row over school closures -- has prompted tetchy responses from Labour backbenchers.

One TD told the Herald: "It took the party leadership a hell of a long time to realise how much of a bread and butter issue this was for a number of us.

"[Education Minister] Ruairi Quinn displayed a sheer level of arrogance not to take our concerns seriously until the Fine Gaelers became vocal."