'Brash, upfront, opinionated' - Alan Kelly describes himself as 'the most psychoanalysed politician in the country'
*Jan O'Sullivan told me on 'numerous occasions' she wanted a contest
*Pints tweet was “just a bit of craic”
Published 23/05/2016 | 10:49
FORMER Education Minister Jan O’Sullivan said on “numerous occasions” that she wanted a contest for the leadership of the Labour Party, Alan Kelly has insisted.
The Tipperary TD, who failed to get a nomination for the top job, has today said he wanted to “move on” and will work with new leader Brendan Howlin.
However, he reignited questions about Mr Howlin’s appointment, suggesting that it went against the party’s democratic principles.
“Brendan, for his own reasons - some of them reasons I can understand - didn’t want a contest. He was very clear on that. In that scenario he wouldn’t be a candidate,” Mr Kelly said on his local radio Tipp FM.
“I do know that there were others who wanted to facilitate a contest and for that reason it was very difficult for them.
“I’m a human being, and it was a very difficult week and a difficult weekend too,” he said.
Pressed on reports that Ms O’Sullivan was prepared to second his nomination in order to facilitate an election, Mr Kelly said: “Jan told me on numerous occasions that she wanted a contest. She supported Brendan but wanted a contest.”
He claimed that because outgoing leader Joan Burton and party chairman Willie Penrose were neutral in the process, just three TDs were left to decide on the leadership for the party’s 4,000 members.
“There was an issue of democracy versus who you were supporting. I know her preference was for a contest,” Mr Kelly said.
The former Environment Minister said he had no regrets about declaring his intention to be a candidate for leadership on the Late Late Show.
And he denied his decision to skip the press conference where Mr Howlin was unveiled as leader was out of spite.
“There was a very genuine reason for that. It was Brendan’s day.
“He was probably the most central person in bringing this country around. He was the cement that kept things together at critical times. I knew if I was there, there was going to be a focus on me,” he said.
Mr Kelly also claimed to the be the most “over psychoanalysed politician in a long time”.
He said people were reading too much into a tweet sent on Friday night which showed seven pint glasses filled to different levels with Guinness.
The picture was accompanied with a caption that described them as the “seven stages of leadership”.
“That was a bit of craic. What do your friends do, they rally around you. There was only one of those mine. It was a bit of craic, that was all. We all arrived at different times,” he said.
"I am brash and upfront and opinionated, but if you’re in politics and not those things, you shouldn’t be there," he added. "But I am many other things… I must be the most psychoanalysed politician in the country".
Meanwhile, speaking on Newstalk Radio, Labour leader Brendan Howlin denied that he had told colleagues he wouldn’t run for the leadership if Mr Kelly was nominated.
Asked by presenter Pat Kenny if he that told Ms O’Sullivan “If one of you guys nominates or seconds Alan Kelly I’m out of here”, Mr Howlin replied: “I didn’t hear Jan say that and that would not be the character of our discussion.”
He said he did “put forward the notion that we should have a consensus and I wanted that consensus to be unanimous.
“Most of my colleagues said a consensus doesn’t have to be unanimous, it can be a majority.
“And that’s why we had hours and hours of discussion to see what a consensual leadership would look like, how we would bring all of the strands of the party together.”
Mr Howlin said he has spoken to Mr Kelly twice over the weekend and added that they’d speak again this week.
He said the conversations were “not at all pugilistic”.
“I’ve known Alan for decades. This is not about Alan Kelly, this is not about Brendan Howlin.
“Bluntly I came to this to see only what is best for the Labour Party and that’s Alan’s perspective. “How do we build the party? All of us, Alan Kelly's role, Willie Penrose’s role, Seán Sherlock’s role – all will be pivotal.
“There is not individual who won’t have a full and important role to play in the rebuilding of the Labour Party.”
Mr Kenny played a clip of Mr Kelly telling Tipp FM that Ms O’Sullivan has told him “numerous” times that though she supported Mr Howlin as leader, she favoured a contest.
It also included Mr Kelly praising the new leader saying he thinks "Brendan will be a very good leader".
Mr Kenny put it to Mr Howlin saying that the clip "started badly" for him but "finished well".
Mr Howlin said: “It’s not about how it effects me. It’s about working together for the future of the party.
“My role in the Labour Party is to advance the values and interests of the Labour Party.
“We’re going to unite, we’re going to work together, not only Alan and myself as I told you – I’ve spoken to him twice but I’ve spoken to the other members of the parliamentary party as well.
"We’re going to work in consort to develop the party and to grow the party again to be pivotal in the formation of policy in our country.”