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Gilmore: "I am not wedded to Foreign Affairs"

The Labour leader has not ruled out moving to a domestic post in the lifetime of the coalition, but has rejected the suggestion he needs to spend more time in the country in order to address problems within the party.

Image: Photocall Ireland

TÁNAISTE EAMON GILMORE has said he is not “wedded to Foreign Affairs”, and has not ruled out moving to a domestic ministry in the course of the lifetime of the Government.

The Labour leader was addressing suggestions that he needed to make a move away from the Department of Foreign Affairs in order to address dissent within the party.

Speaking to Seán O’Rourke on RTÉ radio, Gilmore said he didn’t accept that he wasn’t able to properly fulfil his role as party leader in his current position, and insisted that the “vast bulk” of his day-to-day workload was carried out in his capacity as Tánaiste across wider Government issues.

Gilmore said that one of the key tasks of his ministry upon entering Government was to restore the reputation of a state that was “in tatters”, but he didn’t dismiss a move from that position:

“Are we going to have some changes in portfolio during the lifetime of Government? That is something we have to decide.”

He again repeated his assertion that the Government should not introduce the full target of a €3.1 billion adjustment in the upcoming Budget, but stopped short of saying what the figure should be.

“Yes we will do what is necessary to get our public finances in in good order,” the Táiniste said. “But we will not do more than that.”

Pressed by O’Rourke on whether his reluctance to commit to a figure was as a result of a meeting last week between Michael Noonan and Brendan Howlin that didn’t go well for the Labour public expenditure minister, Gilmore wouldn’t be drawn — saying only that there were regular meetings between the two. He repeated that the amount of the adjustment “won’t be settled in final Budget figures until closer to Budget day”.

Asked about speculation that the social welfare spend would be reduced by €440 million, Gilmore again repeated that “final figures have to be determined”. He added.

“I would say to anybody looking at kites that are being flown –  specific Budget measures have not been decided.”

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On the subject of the recent raft of defections from the party, the Labour leader said that the party had always been “self critical”, and that the characteristic was “one of its great strengths”. He added that he had “always said this was going to be a difficult time” and that it was clear “not everybody was up for the battle”.

Gilmore said he was “giving a very high priority to the work I have to do as leader of the party”, and rejected suggestions that the Labour was on the brink of  wipe-out at next year’s local and European elections.

Read: ‘Austerity hawks’ want to use Ireland as ‘economic experiment’ – Gilmore

Read: Labour senators to join Mary O’Rourke in campaigning for Seanad to be saved

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Daragh Brophy

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