Eamon Gilmore has resigned as Labour party leader and as the Tanaiste (Deputy Prime Minister) of the 26 County state.
The announcement followed a meeting between Mr Gilmore and senior and junior party Ministers in Dublin this afternoon to assess Labour’s standing in the wake of the disastrous election results.
Speaking to a press conference at Iveagh House, he said he had “agonised” over the decision, but would remain as a member of the Dail.
He said he wanted his successor to take over from him before the end of the current parliamentary term. He described his leadership of the party “an honour and a privilege”, but that it had witnessed the worst economic cirsis in the history of the state.
He said Labour had had a “duty to put the country first” in its policies, but that it had now “paid the price”. He deeply regretted the defeat of “outstanding candidates” but that there would now be “a renewal” and a “new phase”.
He said there was a need to heed the “clear message” from voters, but said his party had also helped to find “real solutions” to the country’s problems. “Where he have had successes we must build on them,” he said.
A motion of no-confidence motion in his leadership, signed by eight backbench Labour TDs, was due to be debated at the weekly meeting of the parliamentary party this Wednesday. But the Dun Laoghaire TD said he took the decision to resign before the motion of non-confidence was submitted, and that he will continue to work with the party leadership from the backbenches.
Dublin Labour TD Sean Kenny said Gilmore had become a “lightning rod” for voters’ unhappiness. Labour Senator John Whelan said the leadership had become “arrogant” but that Gilmore’s resignation had saved the party some upheaval. However, he expressed sadness that it had come too late for many of the party’s candidates.
LABOUR FAILURE PROPELS LEFT
Meanwhile, amid Labour’s demise, election successes have continued for Sinn Fein and other left-wing parties and independents.
Liadh ni Riada and Matt Carthy are set to take an incredible second and third seat for Sinn Fein in the European parliament after both fell just short of a quota in the first count, in the South and Midlands-North-West constituencies respectively.
Speaking from the European election count centre in Cork this morning, Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said voters had rejected the ‘consensus for cuts’ represented by Labour, Fine Gael, and Fianna Fail.
He called for a change in political direction or a general election.
“The government has been sent a very clear message. They do not have public support for the damaging policies they are implementing,” he said.
“The voters have called time on this government. They should change political direction or call a General Election.”
A leader of the former Democratic Left before that party’s merger with Labour, Mr Gilmore began his political career in the 1980s with the hardline socialist Workers’ Party, while it still had links to the Official IRA. His political trajectory turned increasingly right-wing, until he eventually became an advocate of IMF austerity policies and a swingingly right-wing Programme for Government with Fine Gael’s Enda Kenny in 2011.
As Minister for Foreign Affairs, he also adopted a strongly pro-British and royalist approach to peace efforts, controversially waving regally at onlookers from a royal carriage during the recent state visit to London by 26 County President Michael D. Higgins.
He also had faced questions over his political sincerity in recent years. In 2012, a classified cable was revealed by ‘Wikileaks’ which showed him admitting to US officials that he had successfully deceived the Irish people by privately agreeing to hold a second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty on EU integration, despite publicly saying the opposite.
In recent years, it was the growing austerity crisis over collapsing standards of living, healthcare cuts, homelessness, suicides, and water and household taxes which fueled a political revolution which saw his party obliterated in the polls in recent days.
His resignation is certain to place a strain on the coalition government as Labour seeks to elect a new leader, who will automatically take on the role of Tanaiste. A planned government reshuffle is likely to be postponed until a new Labour leader is named.
MIDLANDS-NORTH-WEST, FIRST COUNT
Flanagan, Luke ‘Ming’ (Ind) 124063
Carthy, Matt (SF) 114727
McGuinness, Mairead (FG) 92080
Harkin, Marian (Ind) 68986
Gallagher, Pat The Cope (FF) 59562
Byrne, Thomas (FF) 55384
Higgins, Jim (FG) 39908
Mullen, Ronan (Ind) 36326
Higgins, Lorraine (Lab) 31951
Dearey, Mark (GP) 9520
Gilroy, Ben (DDI) 7683
Fitzsimons, Mark (Ind) 2424
Fay, TJ (Ind) 2002
Nic Fhearraigh, Cordelia (FN) 1829
SOUTH, FIRST COUNT
Crowley, Brian (FF) 180329
Ni Riada, Liadh (SF) 125309
Kelly, Sean (FG) 83520
Harris, Simon (FG) 51483
Clune, Deirdre (FG) 47453
O’Flynn, Diarmuid (Ind) 30323
Prendergast, Phil (Lab) 30317
Hartley, Kieran (FF) 29987
O’Sullivan, Grace (GP) 27860
Heaney, Theresa (CD) 13569
Cahill, Richard (Ind) 10719
Van de Ven, Jan (DDI) 9255
Godsil, Jillian (Ind) 9179
O’Loughlin, Peter (Ind) 6561
O Riordain, Donal (FN) 1634