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Brendan Howlin to step down as leader of the Labour Party

Howlin has led the party since 2016, when he took over from Joan Burton.

Image: Niall Carson/PA

BRENDAN HOWLIN HAS announced he is to step down as leader of the Labour Party in the coming weeks.

Howlin spoke to the parliamentary party this afternoon and informed them of his intention to stand down once the process to elect a successor has been completed. 

The party’s first preference vote dropped to 4.4% in the general election, with prominent TDs such as former leader Joan Burton and Jan O’Sullivan losing their seats.

“It has been an honour to lead the Labour Party but now is the right time to pass on the baton to a new generation. It has been undoubtedly a difficult election for us but I believe we have succeeded in sowing the seeds for future growth,” Howlin said after the party meeting this afternoon.

I would like to thank all of my colleagues for their support over the last four years, and to thank the party’s members and staff who have put in a huge effort in the recent election as they do between elections.

“I will continue to represent the people of my beloved Wexford to the best of my ability and I thank them wholeheartedly for their continued support,” he said.

“I will, of course, offer my total support to my successor when they are elected.”

In a press conference this afternoon, Howlin said he will meet with the Green Party leader and has spoken already to Micheál Martin.

“It is my view that the Labour Party did not get a mandate to enter government.

“It is my view that we should not be formally part in any future government in this Dail because we don’t have a critical mass to ensure the policy platform that is absolutely core to us is implemented.

“That view has been endorsed by the parliamentary party.

“What we will do instead is engage constructively with anybody else to implement the key policy issues and support those polices in the next Dail, wherever they come from.

“If anybody wants to talk to us about a programme for government that we can support from the opposition side, we will happily do that and I hope to engage constructively on policy formation on that basis,” he said, adding that two of the three larger political blocs – Sinn Féin, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael – need to form a stable government. 

He also took aim at Leo Varadkar:

He acknowledged that the party “didn’t do everything right” when it was in government, but added that Alan Kelly had begun to build houses when the government had “a few bob” again. 

“As a small party we have written the social agenda for this country for the last 40 years,” he said. He acknowledged that the party may have taken its eye off the ball when it came to wage equality in Ireland, and that is something they will refocus on. 

Howlin said he has asked the Labour Party general secretary to begin making the arrangements for the nomination process and the membership election.

Labour’s executive board will meet this Saturday to approve the arrangements for the election of a new leader. 

Howlin’s name is one of a number that have been floated as a possibility for the next Ceann Comhairle, but he told reporters he is not interested in the position. 

He has led the party since 2016, when he took over from Burton.

He has been a TD for the Wexford constituency since 1987 and served as Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform from 2011 to 2016. 

- With reporting from Christina Finn.

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