Belfast Telegraph

Burton favourite in Labour race

Joan Burton remains favourite to lead Labour into the next general election as nominations draw to a close.

The Social Protection Minister - on course to become the first woman to head the party - got the backing of Kerry TD Arthur Spring who has ruled himself out of running for any position.

The decision leaves Ms Burton to battle for support from the 5,000 strong membership with Alex White, a junior minister in the Department of Health and one of eight TDs who moved to oust outgoing leader, Tanaiste and Foreign Affairs Minister Eamon Gilmore.

Mr Spring confirmed he will back Ms Burton's nomination rather than run himself for any senior position.

"She is the person best suited at this point in time to lead the party," he said.

"I spoke to Joan Burton myself and the style of leadership she proposes is more inclusive and more balanced, by that I mean more inclusive of members and of backbenchers and more balanced in that she sees the difference between the rural Ireland and Dublin recovery."

The nomination process closes at midday with four candidates also vying for the deputy leadership position after Waterford TD Ciara Conway threw her hat into the ring yesterday to compete with Sean Sherlock and Alan Kelly, both junior ministers, and Cork TD Michael McCarthy.

Mr White has pledged his support for Ms Conway in the deputy leadership contest, after she put her name to the post-election no confidence motion against Mr Gilmore.

The move was a direct response to the setbacks the party suffered in the local and European elections.

Ms Conway also attempted to further her chances yesterday when she said she would not take a ministerial job if she got a leadership position.

Meanwhile, Mr White has suggested he would like the job of health minister and also refused to rule out a coalition government with Sinn Fein.

"My instinct on the formation of governments is that it's about numbers in the Dail when the Dail sits for the first time," he told Newstalk radio.

"I don't think there's any party you can afford to exclude, including Sinn Fein."

Nominations closed at midday with no other candidates putting their names forward.

Labour Party general secretary Ita McAuliffe set out the election procedure after postal ballots are sent to fully paid-up members on June 9.

Voters have until midday on Friday July 4 to return the papers, with the count taking place immediately.

Labour said the party's legal adviser Richard Humphreys will act as the returning officer and the party auditors will be independent observers.

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