Need to govern with more heart, says Joan Burton

Saturday 05 July 2014 12.02
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Joan Burton was this afternoon elected leader to succeed Eamon Gilmore
Joan Burton was this afternoon elected leader to succeed Eamon Gilmore
Joan Burton paid tribute to Alex White, whom she defeated by a margin of 77% to 22%
Joan Burton paid tribute to Alex White, whom she defeated by a margin of 77% to 22%
She said Labour had perhaps governed too much with the head and not enough with the heart
She said Labour had perhaps governed too much with the head and not enough with the heart
Alex White said it is up to Ms Burton whether he gets a place in the Cabinet
Alex White said it is up to Ms Burton whether he gets a place in the Cabinet

The new Labour leader has said her party had governed too much with the head in the past and not enough with the heart.

Joan Burton was this afternoon elected leader to succeed Eamon Gilmore, following the counting of votes at the Mansion House in Dublin.

She paid tribute to Alex White, whom she defeated in the leadership contest by a margin of 77% to 22%.

Alan Kelly has been voted as deputy leader of the party.

Ms Burton said she would argue for a low pay commission to deal with the minimum wage and other issues, and for an ambitious programme of social and affordable housing.

She told a news conference that she has spoken to Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who has formally appointed her Tánaiste.

She said she believes that Labour will be the force that creates a better future for the country.

The Minister for Social Protection said she will work to ensure that economic recovery will work for the many and not for the few.

She told supporters that in dealing with the economic crisis in Government, Labour had perhaps governed too much with the head and not enough with the heart.

She said that the party would have to focus more in the future on social repair, and govern more with the heart.

Mr White told reporters that it is up to Ms Burton whether he gets a place in the Cabinet and added that it is her day.

The new deputy leader said he was extremely humbled and that the Labour Party stands for everything he believes in.

Mr Kelly, who is also the Minister of State at the Department of Transport, won the contest with 1,409 votes or almost 52% of the vote.

He said he would do every single thing in his power for the betterment of the party.

The North Tipperary TD paid tribute to his fellow candidates - Ciara Conway, Seán Sherlock and Michael McCarthy - and he said that with them as members the Labour Party was in very good hands.

He congratulated Ms Burton as the new leader of the party and said he would give her his 1,000% loyalty.

Ms Burton's involvement in politics stretches back four decades.

She grew up in Stoneybatter in Dublin, attended the local school and won a scholarship to study commerce at UCD.

She went on to become one of the first female chartered accountants in Ireland.

Her own political career got off to an unsuccessful start. She failed to win a Dáil seat in 1989, but was brought in, in the spring tide three years later.

On her first day in the Dáil, she was made a junior minister at the Department of Social Welfare.

She later went on to become a minister for overseas aid, but in the 1997 election she lost her Dublin West seat.

She returned to the Dáil in 2002 and she later became the party's deputy leader.

It was perhaps in her role as the party's finance spokesperson she made the most impact, regularly then holding the Fianna Fáil / PD government to account.

After Fine Gael and Labour joined forces in 2011, it is said she wanted the public expenditure and reform portfolio. However, she got the social protection brief and it seemed she was not initially happy.

For the past two years or so, she has managed to portray herself as a semi-autonomous Government minister, speaking out and sometimes contradicting Government policy.

There was continued speculation that she had her eyes on Labour's top job with relations between her and Mr Gilmore seemingly strained. 

The question was would she move against him.

In the end, she did not have to as after the disastrous Local and European Election results, Mr Gilmore announced he would step aside.

Now, after over 30 years in the party, she has become the party's 11th leader and their first female leader.

Keywords: labour party