Gilmore: ‘Best chance for renewal is with a new leader’

Ultimately, the reason Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore gave for his resignation as Labour leader after three years in Government was simple: "The party has to renew itself," he said, "and it has a better chance to do that with a new leader."

Gilmore: ‘Best chance for renewal is  with a new leader’

Speaking while flanked by frontbench friends — and perhaps one or two enemies — at the Department of Foreign Affairs, the no-longer happy Mr Gilmore confirmed the rumours that had been spreading during the day.

After Labour’s disastrous local election results and the loss of all of its MEP seats over the weekend, the Tánaiste accepted his time in charge was up.

In a dignified 10-minute press conference, the leader of Ireland’s largest left-wing party since 2007 said he has to resign for the good of Labour, effective from July 4.

The decision, he said, was his alone and had nothing to do with a brewing party push against him. Despite listing a number of what he termed successes in Government, he said part of being a leader is to “take responsibility” for failures.

After the “very clear message” from Friday’s voters, Mr Gilmore said the “discharge” of this responsibility is “what I’m doing today”.

“If you listen closely to what I said [when asked at the weekend], I was for discharging my responsibilities as leader of the party. Part of those responsibilities is to take responsibility, and I take responsibility for Friday.

“I believe first what this party needs is renewal. I thought about it over the weekend, I agonised with the decision, and I decided finally last [Sunday] night that the party would be best served by having a new leader.

“We had a very bad day on Friday and got a very clear message. We have to recover, we have to re-group and we have to renew our position,” Mr Gilmore said.

“You go through the weekend and you think, ‘should I fight off all comers or should I pass the baton?’ The critical point really was the party has to renew itself, and it has a better chance to do that with a new leader.”

Under Labour’s new plan, Mr Gilmore will stay on as leader until July 4 at which point his successor will be named. Until then, he will remain Tánaiste and foreign affairs minister, with a decision on those roles to be made by Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Mr Gilmore’s replacement. He will also seek re-election to his Dáil seat in any future general election.

True to party-first beliefs that would have reminded some of his hard-left routes, and some fallen comrades from those times of his involvement in the fractious 1992 Workers’ Party-New Agenda (ultimately Democratic Left) split, Mr Gilmore said the delay in finding a new Labour leader is to ensure an “orderly transition” for the good of the party.

Contenders have until June 3 to come out of the woodwork and make their case. The closing date will surely have caught the eye of frontbench Labour TDs who flanked Mr Gilmore, and who had been summoned to a meeting beforehand.

Among them were Joan Burton, Alex White, Alan Kelly, Brendan Howlin, Seán Sherlock and Jan O’Sullivan — with Pat Rabbitte and Ruairi Quinn already ruling themselves out.

The current leader declined to “express an opinion” publicly on who should succeed him, but stressed withdrawing from Government now — a potential alternative to his resignation and something grassroots Labour members may want answers on from candidates — would be “very irresponsible”.

He said the Coalition still has a job to do, but he won’t be the one to lead it. Three years on, and after another tumultuous election, Gilmore has been whipped away in a gale.

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