The Labour Party last night appeared to have abandoned plans to re-enter government, following a major internal backlash.
The climbdown follows a weekend of speculation the party was on the verge of finalising a deal, but senior party sources last night said Labour was unlikely to enter government.
Party leader and Tánaiste Joan Burton along with deputy leader Alan Kelly and Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin last week met Taoiseach Enda Kenny.
Speculation had been rife about a new deal with Fine Gael, despite the parties losing 56 seats between them.
A senior party source last night told the Irish Examiner there was “significant scepticism” to the idea of re-entering government, but suggested some arrangement could be possible which would see it supporting a government from the opposition benches.
However, the depth of feeling against doing a deal with Fine Gael surfaced with several leading party members venting their fury.
One prominent Labour TD stated his strong opposition to re-entering government with Fine Gael.
Cork East TD and acting junior minister Sean Sherlock said his party had no mandate from the people to go back into government.
Speaking on Cork 103 FM, he was asked about his previous comments about Labour staying out of power being the best course for the party.
“That remains my position, we did not receive a mandate to go into government.
“To the question are we in discussions, the answer is no,” he said.
He confirmed Fine Gael has been wooing Labour in a bid to securing a deal.
“Has there been overtures from Fine Gael to individual members at the highest levels? The answer to that is: ‘absolutely yes, there has’. Does Fine Gael want us as part of a minority government? The answer to that is yes,” he said.
Mr Sherlock said he was due to meet his own party supporters tonight but was aware of the strong opposition to re-entering power.
“There is a school of thought within Labour that, to remain relevant, you have to remain part of a new government.
“I don’t subscribe to that school of thought. We didn’t receive a mandate to go into government.
“Well, there is an element of that [being lost in opposition] but you have to go into power with a mandate.”
Speaking about what happens if Labour were to go into power, Mr Sherlock confirmed there would be no need to change leader.
However, he said that his strong view is that the leader should resign and that there is a mood for change.
“If we transition into government there is no need to change leader, but if we go into Opposition a leadership race must happen.
“I am giving Joan some latitude, she said she would consider her position once a government is formed. I am happy to allow her that time, but I do believe there will have to be a leadership contest.
“I am not sure if going into government is in the best interests of the party — supporters are not in the mood for going into power,” he said.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved