Progressive Democrat TD Tom Parlon claimed today that he had strong support to take over as party leader following Tánaiste Mary Harney’s sudden resignation.
In the strongest hint yet that he would run for the leadership of the PDs, the Laois-Offaly TD said he would prefer a new leader to be appointed by consensus but added that he had no problem with putting it to the vote.
And he revealed he would be meeting his constituents over the next 48 hours before deciding whether to officially throwing his hat in the ring.
“I’ve had a lot of contact and despite that I think the general consensus is that a consensus leader would be best. I’m certainly getting a very strong message from people that they do not have a problem with a contest,” the junior minister said.
“That was being put very clear to me by a lot of people, both by people in the parliamentary party, and councillors and members around the country, but they do not see a major downside to a contest.
“But I will say that a number of people have contacted me, a large number of people since this has come up, and encouraged me to run.”
Mr Parlon also said that, if a leadership ballot is called, he expects Minister for Justice Michael McDowell and former junior minister Liz O’Donnell to be in the running.
Bookmakers have installed Ms O’Donnell as odds-on favourite, with Mr McDowell second in the betting and Mr Parlon given only an outsider’s chance.
Mr Parlon is Minister of State at the Department of Finance with responsibility for the Office of Public Works giving him the unenviable task of attempting to implement the troubled decentralisation scheme.
A farmer from Co Offaly, he entered the Dáil in 2002 and has strong support in his own constituency and also among councillors.
The closing date for nominations to take over at the helm of the PDs is midday on Monday.
The process of selecting a new leader involves votes by three electoral colleges, the parliamentary party made up of 13 people which accounts for 40% of the vote; local councillors, national executive and trustees making up 42 people whose votes comprise 30% of the final ballot; and general party members which officially stands at 3,000 and also accounts for 30% of the vote.
Mr Parlon revealed that around 1,000 of the 3,000 ordinary PD membership are based in his Laois-Offaly constituency, but it is unclear how many of these are fully paid-up members for the last 12 months.
But the junior minister cautioned that the next PD leader must be able to garner support from all sections of the party.
“If the future leader of the PDs does not have strong support in the parliamentary, he or she will not be going anywhere and that’s going to be a major issue,” he said.
Mr Parlon, who helped negotiate the Fianna Fáil/PD coalition programme for government after the last election, said he was determined to see it through to the end.
“I’d be very committed to carry out the agreed programme for government,” he said.