Howlin says he would have 'many deputies' willing to second a leadership nomination

The Wexford TD says he has "always had the ambition to lead" Labour, but hasn't confirmed whether or not he will run for leader

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Brendan Howlin TD, Sean Sherlock TD and Alan Kelly TD. Image:

Brendan Howlin says he believes he would have 'many deputies' willing to second his nomination if he chooses to run for Labour leadership.

The resignation of party leader and former Tánaiste Joan Burton yesterday has triggered a leadership contest in Labour.

It follows what Deputy Howlin describes as a 'torrid' election for the party - having seen their Dáil presence reduced to only seven TDs, down from 33 before the election was called.

Alan Kelly and Sean Sherlock are both expected to put their names forward to lead the party.

Speaking to Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Deputy Howlin would not confirm whether or not he intends to run, but did say he has "always had the ambition to lead the Labour party".

However, he denied reports that he would only consider leadership if he was uncontested, saying he is 'absolutely' up for a contest.

The former Public Expenditure Minister told Chris he had given his adult life to the party.

He explained that he believes Labour "has played a pivotal role in modernising Ireland, in making it a better place and I want to ensure the Labour party will always have that role into the future.

"We've gone through a torrid election - I suppose no surprise, [since the] opinion polls said that was going to be the result of our five years steering the country out of the worst economic crisis in history. Now we have to look to the future," he added.

Deputy Howlin said he and his colleagues need to approach the leadership election 'in a new way'. He suggested "it can't simply be that we elect an individual person as if it was normal times. There has to be a debate within the parliamentary party about a collective leadership".

He said Labour's Councillors and active members need to have an active involvement in the party's future, not just TDs and senators.

He suggested that "I believe I would have many deputies willing to second my nomination", and that there is a strong contingent in the party that would like to see him leader. However, he added he would like a dialogue to take place on the subject.

"I now want to play a role in the next phase of Labour's development - but so does Jan O'Sullivan, so does Sean Sherlock, so does Brendan Ryan, so does Willie Penrose. All of us collectively... Joan Burton will certainly have a significant role," he added.

In terms of Alan Kelly's potential leadership bid, Deputy Howlin said he believes the Labour deputy leader will be putting himself forward.

"Alan has been a great colleague, he will play a pivotal role in the future of our party, and he will work collaboratively together as we always have done on Labour's agenda," the Wexford TD said.