A SPOKESPERSON for Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore has insisted that the Dun Laoghaire TD will not be distracted by comments made by former junior minister Rosin Shortall who has refused to rule out a challenge to his leadership of the Labour Party in 2013.
In an interview with our sister newspaper, Northside People, the former Minister of State at the Department of Health criticised Deputy Gilmore’s leadership of the party and noted that some of her party colleagues were seeking a “change of direction”.
The Dublin North West Labour TD said there was a lot of dissatisfaction within the party about the manner in which it was run and claimed there was a “desire for a change of direction” among some members of the parliamentary party.
“I am aware of a lot of dissatisfaction from within the party but we haven’t got to the point of a heave just yet,” Deputy Shortall told the newspaper. “I’m not ruling anything out. Anything’s possible at this stage.
“I would expect to see a lot more of a change of direction from within the Labour Party in the New Year and that people will start looking at alternatives.”
She added: “We will work from within the party to see this change. This move has only really been devised in recent months, I guess since I resigned as minister in September.”
Deputy Shortall resigned as a junior minister and gave up the party whip in September following disagreements with Minister for Health James Reilly over the primary health care centre controversy.
When asked about the Tanaiste’s role as leader of the Labour Party, Deputy Shortall was forthright in her criticism.
“I think there hasn’t been a very open leadership and that he hasn’t listened to the people,” she said.
She also said that she was unhappy with several budgetary decisions made by the coalition, including the cuts in child benefit and respite care and added that in Government the Labour Party had “protected the better off”.
In response, a spokesman for Mr Gilmore said: “The Tanaiste will not be distracted in 2013 from building on the progress Labour has made in Government in bringing stability to our public finances; in tackling the jobs crisis; and in safeguarding the State supports that are in place for people who need them most.
“He is determined to make good on the commitment made at the time of the 2011 election - that Labour would fix our broken economy and would do that in a way that was fair and equitable.”
Deputy Eric Byrne (Lab) has also come to the defence of his party leader and insisted that there was little prospect of a challenge to Mr Gilmore’s leadership.
“The Labour Party doesn’t need a new leader,” he declared. “It has an excellent leader in Eamon Gilmore.
“I think that the vast majority of the parliamentary party are 100 per cent behind Eamon Gilmore. He is a serious politician, leading a serious party.”
Deputy Byrne also fired a broadside at Deputy Shortall.
“My thoughts on her comments are that she would be better off keeping them to herself because the Labour Party has a project - and she was to be part of the project - and that was to restore Ireland’s sovereignty,” he added.