Tipperary North: Labour looking to MEP Kelly for crucial victory
Published 08/02/2011 | 05:00
HE'S used to meeting European Commissioners Olli Rehn and Manuel Almunia, but Alan Kelly is now more focused on meeting voters in Cappawhite and Annacarty.
The Labour MEP is a bright hope of his party and regarded as a must win if the Gilmore Gale is to be taken seriously.
Mr Kelly is running in the bellweather constituency of Tipperary North, where the national trend frequently manages to be replicated.
The 35-year-old marked his arrival on the national stage when he was elected to the European Parliament in 2009.
Despite committing to seeing out his full five-year term in Brussels and Strasbourg when he was elected, Mr Kelly is looking to return to Leinster House, where he spent two years as a senator.
Without saying he is line for a ministerial post, he's not shy about playing up his potential to the voters -- especially if it means playing down the access of his opponents.
"People really would like to see somebody in the next government who can help them and have an influence in government," he said. "I don't think people think there are others who will be in such a position."
"It is a watershed election in that people know they have to get the national issues sorted out." The Munster MEP hasn't disappeared off the radar since being elected to the European Parliament and has constantly spoken about supporting job creation.
He has championed the cause of Dell and Waterford Crystal workers to access retraining funds and arranged private meetings with European Commissioners to discuss the economic and employment problems in the country.
"After Brian Lenihan, I don't know anyone who has had as many meetings with the relevant European Commissioners over there," he claimed.
"But I believe there is a disconnect between Europe and the Oireachtas."
Given Mr Kelly's penchant for personal promotion, it's hardly a surprise he's the brother of a PR guru -- New York based Declan Kelly, who Hillary Clinton appointed as US special economic envoy to Northern Ireland.
While his older brother isn't on the ground, Mr Kelly does admit there is a bit of advice coming from stateside.
"It wouldn't be natural to not be speaking to him. He's doing a very good job up the North."
Fianna Fail's retrenchment sees the party running only one candidate after Maire Hoctor fended off Michael Smith Jr for selection. Independent Michael Lowry and Fine Gael's Noel Coonan remain strong. But the emergence of Mr Kelly means there will be four serious contenders going for three seats.
Maire Hoctor TD
Noel Coonan TD
Alan Kelly MEP
Cllr Seamus Morris
Michael Lowry TD
Last time out
? Michael Lowry topped the poll with a whopping 12,919 votes
? Noel Coonan wins Fine Gael seat for first time since Lowry’s departure from party.
? Maire Hoctor pips former minister Michael Smith for the Fianna Fail seat.
? SEATS 3
?VOTERS PER TD 19,545