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Dublin fight for Labour leadership

The leadership of the Labour Party has become a firmly based Dublin battle between two contenders from opposite sides of the capital.

Northsider Joan Burton and southsider Alex White bring both geographical and gender balance to the contest.

While Ms Burton may be firm favourite, it will not be an easy fight.

Her advantage is a high profile as deputy leader, but Alex White’s role in the heave against former leader Eamon Gilmore may bring him added support.

Destabilise

Whichever one takes the leadership prize, it is unlikely to destabilise the coalition between the two government partners.

Neither candidate has expressed any desire to break away from Fine Gael - in fact, quite the opposite is the case.

In announcing her bid for the leadership, Ms Burton said she was determined to work with Fine Gael and had a good working relationship with Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

She signalled an intention to stay the course in government with Fine Gael until the end of the Coalition’s mandate in 2016.

She also sent a clear message that the party under her leadership would not try to move away from a tough deficit-cutting budget in October.

Last night, Alex White equally showed no inclination to pull out of coalition, and instead said it was important for Labour to reassert its identity in government.

He talked about the need for “a robust discussion and debate about policy issues” within the party so it could “better explain to people what we are doing”.

As junior health minister he has become embroiled in the medical cards controversy.

He has said, however, that “I want to try and change the rules” in a bid to “marshall the services” towards the people who need them most.

Younger elements in the Labour Party have been pushing for a newer generation to take over.

priority

Ms Burton said the priority is not age maturity but a “matter of somebody who can do the very difficult job of being leader”.

Mr White believes he could be “a bridge to the new generation that must lead Labour in the coming years”.

Nominations can still be taken up to Tuesday, but even if others throw their hats into the ring, the fight will still essentially be a strongly contested two-horse race.

csheehy@herald.ie


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