Irish Deputy PM quits as Labour party leader after polls setback
Irish deputy prime minister Eamon Gilmore said today he will quit as leader of the junior government Labour party, in a move that could destabilise the coalition and its austerity programme following a major election setback.
Alongside Prime Minister Enda Kenny, Gilmore led Ireland out of an international bailout last year and there have been signs of economic recovery, but it is not being felt by large numbers of voters who hammered Labour in the elections at the weekend.
The collapse in support at local and European polls prompted eight members of Labour's parliamentary party, representing almost a fifth of the grouping, to submit a motion of no confidence in Gilmore's leadership.
"In 2011, following our most successful ever general election result, I asked the party to take on the responsibility of government during the worst economic crisis in the history of the state," Gilmore told a hastily arranged news conference.
"It was a course which carried a high political risk, and Labour has paid the price for that. I believe that the work of renewing the party is best done under new leadership," he said, adding he would step down once the party elects a successor.
The next leader, who will be chosen by colleagues in early July if more than one challenger emerges over the next two weeks, will also probably become deputy prime minister.
Three years ago, Labour went into government for the first time since the late 1990s on a promise to end the previous administration's adherence to "Frankfurt's Way", an austerity plan the party said was dictated by the European Central Bank.
However the centre-left party angered supporters by pursuing the tough austerity required under the EU/IMF bailout and it captured just 7 percent of seats in the local polls, compared with 19 percent at parliamentary elections three years ago.
Kenny, who had a close relationship with Gilmore and whose party surprisingly slumped to second place in the local polls, needs the support of Labour to push through its final package of austerity cuts in October's budget.
"Eamon Gilmore and the Labour Party have been courageous in making the collective decisions that have pulled Ireland back from the brink of economic collapse," Kenny said in a statement.
"He has assured me that the Labour Party remains fully committed to providing stable government, and to the completion of our mandate to fix our public finances."