Defiant Gilmore defends his leadership

Eamon Gilmore has defended his leadership of the Labour Party amid questions raised about his tenure by frustrated party members.

Following the resignation of another parliamentary party member last week, the Tánaiste said the Coalition would not step back from the challenge of fixing the economy.

His defence yesterday came after a conference of Labour members at the weekend heard talk of a possible meltdown in support at next year’s local elections.

Rebel party TD Tommy Broughan also said Mr Gilmore’s leadership was in the spotlight following the dismal result for the party in last month’s by-election.

However, Mr Gilmore, speaking to RTÉ while on a trade mission to Turkey, said: “I know that there are some people in the Labour Party who are sometimes more comfortable in opposition. We took on a responsibility two years ago to turn our country’s economy around to solve the enormous difficult economic crisis that we inherited.

“We’re not going to pull back from that. We’re going to complete that job to ensure that our country and its people have a future.”

However, Mr Broughan, one of seven who have left the parliamentary party, raised questions about Mr Gilmore’s leadership.

“Is he performing, is he delivering, is he able to put across a coherent narrative to the Irish people? In my view, he hasn’t done that. He doesn’t have the narrative and Labour is heading for the buffers.”

Labour councillors who gathered in Dublin at the weekend also questioned the party’s direction.

Meath councillor Brian Collins said: “I think Eamon has to consider whether he’s the best person to bring the Labour Party forward. We’re facing into a local election next year. I’m from Meath East, if we face into the same kind of catastrophe we faced there [in the recent by-election], we’re looking at a wipeout of Labour councillors around the country.”

The increased concern in the party comes after a decision by Labour MEP Nessa Childers last week to leave the parliamentary party.

Ms Childers told the weekend meeting that Labour should not be in Government and that the party was “presiding over hundreds of millions of euro in cuts in social welfare.”

There have also been calls by party members to bring forward Labour’s annual conference so this year’s earlier than usual budget in October can be discussed.

Party sources also say a reshuffle of Labour ministers is being considered for when Ireland’s EU presid-ency ends in June, which could see Mr Gilmore swap his foreign affairs portfolio for one which would allow him spend more time on domestic affairs.

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