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'The limits of austerity have been reached': Joan Burton confirms her Labour leadership bid

The party’s deputy leader has confirmed her ambition to replace Eamon Gilmore.

Updated 22.43pm
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JOAN BURTON HAS declared her intention to seek the leadership of the Labour Party this afternoon.

The Social Protection Minister made the announcement on the Leinster House plinth where she was flanked by three TDs, two senators, a number of councillors and ordinary party members.

Burton is the current deputy leader of the party and is the first to throw her hat in the ring in the wake of Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore’s announcement on Monday that he will step down once a new leader is in place.

She has been proposed by TD Ann Phelan and her seconder is Deputy Eamonn Moloney.

Both accompanied her today along with deputy Michael Conaghan. Senators Susan O’Keeffe and Ivana Bacik were also there along with several councillors including Mary McCamley, Jane Horgan-Jones and Andrew Montague.

She would not be drawn on exactly how many members of the Oireachtas are supporting her, saying: “I haven’t been doing any kind of counting of people.”

Thanked Gilmore

photo 3 Source: Hugh O'Connell/TheJournal.ie

During her announcement, Burton thanked Gilmore for his “unstinting service and commitment” to the party and to Ireland.

She told reporters that the current leader had her full support and that the so-called ‘gang of eight’ (the TDs and senator who signed a motion of no confidence against him) should have approached him first.

However, she noted that last weekend was a “difficult one” for Labour, adding that voters are “unhappy with our performance in government”.

She said: “People are not yet feeling the economic recovery that has just begun – in their personal lives, their families and their communities. Too many people are still hurting six years after the worst economic crash in our country’s history.”
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Burton also insisted that Labour will stay in government, but added that the recovery process has been slower than she would like.

My view is that the limits of austerity have been reached not simply in Ireland but the EU.

Burton said she has a “very good working relationship” with the Taoiseach, but noted: “I tell it as I see it from a Labour Party perspective.”

On the question of her age being a barrier to running, the 65-year-old noted that Hillary Clinton is older than her and considering running for the US presidency. She joked that being US president is easier than being Labour leader.

Other runners

Junior ministers Alex White, Alan Kelly and senior minister Brendan Howlin, who has twice failed in his attempts to win the leadership of the party, are also said to be in contention but have yet to confirm their intentions.

A number of backbench TDs have also said they would consider running including Dominic Hannigan and Arthur Spring.

Several others have said they may contest for the deputy leadership of the party including Ciara Conway and Aodhan Ó Ríordáin.

Nominations for the Labour leadership close next Tuesday at 12 noon.

A postal ballot of the party’s 5,000 members will then be held before the result is announced on 4 July.

Additional reporting by Sinéad O’Carroll

Originally Published 14:35

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Hugh O'Connell

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