Pat Rabbitte has resigned as leader of the Labour Party following Labour’s disappointing showing in May’s general election in the 26 Counties.
Rabbitte said today he took full responsibility for the failure to win more seats, and the failure to effect a change of government.
The Tallaght-based TD - who is stepping down with immediate effect - said the return of the new Dublin parliament was an opportune time to elect a new leader.
A member of the Workers’ Party and Democratic Left, before it ultimately merged with the Labour Party, Mr Rabbitte became Labour leader in 2002 when he took over from Ruairi Quinn. Known for his witty sound-bites and ripostes in the Dail, Rabbitte was surprised in the election by a shift to the right among his party’s traditional supporters. Labour lost a seat where it had expected to make gains, failing short of the numbers needed to form a coalition government with the largest opposition party, Fine Gael.
In July, he admitted there was a problem with what he described as the “Labour brand” and urged his party members to examine their place in Irish politics and society.
Speculation will now centre on his likely successor. Its expected the battle to take over will be between current deputy leader Liz McManus and senior front benchers Brendan Howlin and Eamon Gilmore.
Sinn Féin’s leader in the Dail, Caoimhghin O Caolain, wished Rabbitte well and said he hopes to have a good working relationship with whomever succeeds him.
Speaking this afternoon the Cavan/Monaghan TD said, “Though we have our political differences and have had an occasional spat on the floor of the Dail chamber, I would like to wish Pat Rabbitte well in his continuing role as an elected member of the Dail.
“While we will continue to have those differences we also share similar views, particularly on socio-economic issues, and our respective parties have supported each other when pressing those issues in the Dail.
“I hope to work well with whomever succeeds Pat as leader of the Labour Party and hope that a good working relationship between the Labour Party and Sinn Féin will help ensure that we present a truly left opposition to the current Fianna Fail/Green Party/PD coalition.”