Tuesday 6 December 2016

Alan Kelly: I want to be the leader of the Labour Party

Kevin Doyle Group Political Editor

Published 13/05/2016 | 23:28

Alan Kelly. Photo: Irish Independent
Alan Kelly. Photo: Irish Independent

Former environment minister Alan Kelly has declared his intention to seek the leadership of the Labour Party and double their Dáil seats at the next election.

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The Tipperary TD predicted the new government will collapse within two years and he has the “energy and drive” to lead the party.

However, he said that he does not anticipate a full-blown leadership contest, suggesting that the party’s seven TDs will reach a consensus on who should succeed Joan Burton.

Brendan Howlin is also considering whether to have a tilt at the position this weekend, while Jan O’Sullivan and Sean Sherlock have not ruled themselves out of contention.

Mr Kelly (40) said that he spoke with Mr Howlin about the situation yesterday and the party TDs and senators will meet on Tuesday for further discussions.

In a clear effort to differentiate himself from Mr Howlin (60), the current deputy leader suggested the party needs a leader who can plan for multiple elections and he could bring a “different philosophy”. 

“If the election was very soon, the Labour Party would have ambitions to double their seats,” he said.

Speaking on the Late Late Show, Mr Kelly described Labour’s election result as “disastrous” – but blamed “populism” for much of their troubles.

“We lost because by and large we were lost in the flow of populism that has engulfed Irish politics,” he said.

“The issue is that in modern day politics, there is a large element of populism that has taken hold. We need to take a step back from that.

“We now have a scene in the Dáil where a quarter of the people don’t want to govern, probably ever.”

He argued that Labour were so busy “concentrating on saving the country” that they didn’t demonstrate to their core voters the fights they were winning in government during the past five years.

Asked if Labour had betrayed their voters by allowing child benefit to be cut, Mr Kelly replied: “I wouldn’t go anywhere near using the word betrayal. They brought this country through the worse economic crisis in the history of this State.”

And in a clear pitch for the leadership, Mr Kelly said: “We will bring this party back.”

Mr Kelly also said the public perception of him is distorted because people see him “through the prism” of water, housing and flooding.

“I come from a very humble background. Everything was put into giving us an education and we’ve been moderately successful,” he said.

Mr Kelly admitted that he is ambitious, but said that is “frowned up depending on where you come from”.

“You have to put yourself forward in life. Somethings there’s an element of begrudgery.”

On Irish Water, Mr Kelly hit out at junior minister Finian McGrath who had been refusing to pay his charges.

He said it was “incredible” that Mr McGrath could have expected to sit at Cabinet while not obeying the laws of the country.

“Sometimes you don’t like that laws. But you have to obey the laws,” he said.

If the election was very soon, the Labour Party would have ambitions to double their seats.

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