JOAN Burton faces fierce competition from two Labour ministers to become the next party leader.
Sources close to the Minister for Social Protection confirmed last night that she wants the top job after Eamon Gilmore resigned as leader of the party following Labour’s disastrous election result.
Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin and Junior Health Minister Alex White’s names are also in the mix, making up a trio of potential Labour leadership hopefuls.
Mr Howlin is considered a good candidate for the job as he is not seen as being part of the old Labour brigade.
In addition, his southern base offers the potential to secure support for the party outside of the capital.
Mr White has emerged as a frontrunner for the job as the Trinity graduate is not seen as being a member of the Labour old guard.
But despite the strength of Mr Howlin’s and Mr White’s credentials, a senior Labour source last night told
“Howlin ran before and he didn’t get it, Joan’s popular and a woman and it would be good for the party,” they said.
Another Government source described Ms Burton as the “red hot ticket”, and gave the three names being passed around Labour circles for her replacement as deputy leader.
“Alex White, Alan Kelly (Junior Transport Minister) and Sean Sherlock (Junior Jobs Minister) would be favourites to take over as deputy leader,” he said.
Ms Burton declined to comment on Mr Gilmore’s resignation and, when asked about putting her name in the hat for leader, said: “We’ll be meeting the parliamentary party on Wednesday.”
Under party rules, an election must now take place - on a one member, one vote basis - to decide the new leader with Labour’s 5,000 members voting by postal ballot and a result expected to be announced on July 4.
Mr Gilmore said he stepped aside after the abysmal local and European elections, where Emer Costello lost out on a seat in Europe and the party was left with just nine councillors in the entire province of Munster.
“The critical point for me over the weekend in making my decision was that the party has to renew itself and I think it has a better chance of doing that with a new leader,” said Mr Gilmore.
He will remain as Tanaiste and Foreign Affairs minister until a new leader is elected, he confirmed.
It had been expected that he would be moved to a domestic portfolio as part of an upcoming reshuffle.
A senior government source also told
The senior Labour source, when asked about the likelihood of Mr White, Mr Kelly and Mr Sherlock, as nominations for deputy leader said, “you wouldn’t go too far wrong with those names”.
The Labour official also told
Communications Minister and former Labour leader Pat Rabbitte completely ruled himself out of the running.
“I don’t envisage becoming involved myself, no,” he said when the prospect of running was put to him.
Mr Rabbitte wouldn’t name any potential leaders because it would go against the democratic election process of the party, he said, but he described the necessary characteristics for the job.
“Anybody who has the stomach for the job, and the intellectual ability and the stamina are free now to put their names forward, whatever their generation,” said Mr Rabbitte.
The Taoiseach last night stressed that the news would have no impact on the coalition.
“The Tanaiste has made it perfectly clear that the Labour Party is completely committed to stability of government and for the country,” said Mr Kenny.
Ms Burton is both the party’s senior members’ and bookies’ favourite - but younger colleagues are concerned she will be seen as not having done enough to ease austerity.