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It looks like this man could be the next Labour leader

Brendan Howlin is emerging as the clear favourite to succeed Joan Burton.

Joan Burton and Brendan Howlin during the election campaign.
Joan Burton and Brendan Howlin during the election campaign.
Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

OUTGOING MINISTER BRENDAN Howlin is the clear favourite to succeed Joan Burton as Labour leader if and when the Tánaiste steps down.

Howlin has privately and publicly received the backing of several senior Labour figures in the wake of the party’s disastrous general election where it returned just seven TDs – the worst result in its 104-year history.

Labour held a five-hour election post-mortem in Citywest in Dublin yesterday with several participants saying it was time for Burton to step down.

Burton told the meeting she would not make a decision on her future until after the formation of a government.

screenshot.1459440839.43276 Source: www.thejournal.ie

But she faced calls to go from Ciarán Lynch and Michael McCarthy, who both lost their Dáil seats last month, with Lynch and former Dublin North-West TD John Lyons backing Howlin to takeover.

A senior Labour source said that Howlin, the acting public expenditure and reform minister, was likely to become a “compromise leader” until the next general election.

Three failed election candidates who took part in yesterday’s meeting told TheJournal.ie that there is consensus that Howlin should be the next leader.

One former TD described him as “the logical choice” while another source in yesterday’s meeting said he was “the obvious choice”.

There is some concern within the party that Burton will still be the leader if a snap election is called in the event a government is not formed in the coming weeks.

“If a government isn’t formed, is Labour heading into a snap election with a leader it doesn’t want? Joan would be going into debates with everyone with their head in their hands,” one outgoing senator said.

Howlin declined to comment on his leadership intentions when he arrived at Citywest yesterday.

30/3/2016 Labour Party Meetings. Brendan Howling f Source: Sam Boal

Under Labour’s constitution a leadership election must be held within six months of the general election with nationwide hustings and a postal ballot of its roughly 4,000 members.

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However if Howlin emerges as the only candidate he will be deemed elected by consensus.

Deputy leader Alan Kelly, who has a long-held ambition to lead Labour, has also been mentioned as a possible leadership contender.

However, many in the party feel his stock has fallen as a result of his ill-timed interview with the Sunday Independent and the way he celebrated his re-election in Tipperary.

During yesterday’s meeting, Kelly apologised for saying power is a drug that suits him in the Sunday Independent interview in the run up to the election. He told the meeting he regretted doing the interview.

Another possible contender is outgoing junior minister Seán Sherlock. The Cork East TD walked out as Burton was addressing yesterday’s meeting, but later returned to the discussions.

Read: Joan Burton will decide her fate as Labour leader after a government is formed

About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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