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The Mourning After

The contenders: Labour's leadership battle is taking shape, but one minister has ruled himself out

Brendan Howlin and Alan Kelly have both said they will decide on their intentions in the next 48 hours.

Updated 11.05pm

Video / YouTube

ALEX WHITE AND JOAN Burton have emerged as the favourites to be the next Labour leader with Brendan Howlin saying he will decide if he will contest the leadership battle within the next 48 hours.

Junior health minister White is reported to have backed the so-called ‘Gang of Eight’ in their motion of no confidence against Eamon Gilmore and even threatened to resign if the Tánaiste didn’t go.

Meanwhile, Social Protection Minister Burton has courted the leadership for some time and is understood to have been seeking support from parliamentary party members over the last 24 hours with view to launching a leadership bid.

Also throwing their hat in the ring this morning is junior transport minister Alan Kelly.

He told Tipp FM he would be going for one of two positions, either leader or deputy leader, and said that he would make his mind up in the coming days.

However one minister has used Twitter to rule themselves out this afternoon with Minister of State Seán Sherlock also confirming he will not be seeking the deputy leadership of the party:

Speaking on RTÉ Radio this morning, backbench TDs Ciara Conway and Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, who both put their names to the no confidence motion, said that while they would not be interested in the leadership they would both consider the deputy leader position.

Around 5,000 members of the party will vote on the nominees – who must get their names in before 3 June – with the new Labour leader set to be in place by 4 July.

Speaking ahead of this morning’s Cabinet meeting, the Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Howlin said he would decide in the next day or two “what role he will play” in the new leadership process.

“Obviously in the hours since Eamon’s announcement yesterday, I’ve had a lot of conversations with party members. We have, as a party now, very serious business ahead,” he told reporters.

“There are two objectives. One to ensure the Labour party stays at the heart of reform and innovation and progressive politics that we have been since the State was founded.

And, also, to complete the journey of restoring the fortunes of our country. I think we have come a long way on that journey but there is still a lot of people who feel excluded from that and we need to respond very strongly to the message we got in the ballot boxes and on the doorsteps over the last number of weeks.

‘Very healthy’

Howlin believes the conversation the Labour party will have to hold over the next few days will be “very healthy” and that the group will be stronger as a result.

He would not be drawn on whether his colleagues, such as Burton, should begin lobbying for support to be the next leader.

Asked about Ruairí Quinn‘s remarks that the ‘gang of eight’ had lacked decency and courage by failing to inform Gilmore of the motion of no confidence, the Minister said he would not use such language about fellow party members.

However, he did say that he would have preferred to give Gilmore more time for appropriate reflection.

Howlin also claimed that the party would have “swept home in the locals” if they had remained on the Opposition benches, instead of taking the difficult and brave decision of entering government to “do something right for the people”.

Not a ‘fait accompli’

Speaking to the News at One this lunchtime, Meath East TD Dominic Hannigan said he would consider whether to put his name forward for either the leader or deputy leader roles.

Former junior minister Willie Penrose ruled himself out and said “the well-being of the party should be to the foremost in people’s minds”.

He expressed a wish that the leader and deputy leader should not both be from Dublin.

Fine Gael and Sinn Féin

Agreeing with his Cabinet colleague, Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney said this morning that the government had “learnt some hard lessons”.

The Fine Gael minister also believes that Gilmore’s resignation will not impact how the government is run and that he will continue to have a working relationship with the Taoiseach.

He said he had a lot of sympathy for the Labour leader but added “this is politics”.

“That’s something anyone involved in politics can understand following the difficult election we’ve just seen.”

Speaking at Leinster House this afternoon, Sinn Féin Gerry Adams said “this has never been about personalities”.

He said: “It’s a matter for the Labour Party who leads them but I don’t see it having any big change. What is needed is a change of policy, what is needed, in fact, is a change of government.”

Adams said that the government is “living on borrowed time”.

- with reporting by Nicky Ryan and Hugh O’Connell

Related: Ruairí Quinn ‘resents’ how Eamon Gilmore was treated

Who is your new local councillor? Here’s a list of everyone elected so far

Read: Here’s who is in the frame to become the new Labour leader 

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