Brendan Howlin has said that he understood the depth of the crisis that faced the Labour party in the aftermath of the last general election.

Mr Howlin was speaking on Today with Miriam O‘Callaghan amid calls from members of his party to step down as party leader.

Mr Howlin said that it is wrong to suggest that switching the name on the Labour leader‘s door is going to have the impact his critics suggest it will.

He said that he hoped for a very open discussion at the party‘s two-day think-in, in September.

“We don‘t have one leader, one voice. Everyone is entitled to an opinion,” said Mr Howlin.

“My style of leadership as I laid out from the beginning is not only open but collective.”

He said that he would be setting out his stall very vigorously at the two-day party meeting.

Mr Howlin said it is not true that the party had disengaged from its members and he had set out to rebuild the party and reconnect with trade unions.

I know that people were disillusioned by the party after the last general election and I had no illusion that it was going to be a very simple switch.

Mr Howlin said that removing himself as leader of the party would not fix those things saying he thinks he is a good leader, describing himself as a ‘serious political thinker‘ and pointing to his years of experience in politics.

In response to claims that he is “too polite” and should be more strident, Mr Howlin said that although “personality politics” seems to dominate it “doesn‘t solve the real issues for people who want to work for this country”.

He spoke of having had a debate within the parliamentary party when Miriam asks should they not have had an election so that Alan Kelly could be ‘put to rest‘ if he had not won.

In response to poll results, he spoke of having a smaller number of people but that they concentrate on core constituencies and that he is sure that he can double their seats in the next election.

Ahead of the visit of Pope Francis, Mr Howlin said that he will be attending the civic event in Dublin Castle.

Not only does he want to hear what the Pope has to say, but also what our Taoiseach has to say on behalf of the people of Ireland.

When asked what it is he would like to hear the Taoiseach say to the Pope, Brendan Howlin said that Taoiseach Varadkar should say that “no institution is above the law” and that “nobody is immune from the civil law and from an obligation to protect the most vulnerable, and we want to hear from you Holy Father specifically what you intend to do on these matters”.

Listen to Brendan Howlin‘s full interview below:

Digital Desk