Kelly warns of need for contest as next Labour leader is picked
Published 16/05/2016 | 02:30
Alan Kelly will warn his Labour Party colleagues that he has a democratic right to seek the leadership of the party, despite their preference for a consensus candidate.
The Tipperary TD is "satisfied" he will be a candidate to replace Joan Burton, despite the majority of the parliamentary party leaning heavily towards Brendan Howlin.
Mr Howlin has yet to declare whether he wants to be leader, but said yesterday that the party should "act in consort".
"Whatever happens in the next few days, it's important that everybody feels comfortable with it, that everybody is part of the resurgence of Labour. We have a very steep hill to climb.
"Bluntly this is not about any individual. This is about resurrecting our party," he said.
Since Mr Kelly formally announced his intention to seek the leadership during an appearance on 'The Late Late Show' last Friday, internal pressure has mounted on Mr Howlin to put himself forward as a compromise candidate.
The Labour Party's seven TDs and five senators will meet on Tuesday to discuss the situation and a deadline of Friday has been set for nominations.
Although he remains coy about his intentions, Mr Howlin is understood to be interested in the leadership - but is not keen on a contest that will take weeks to complete.
On the other hand Mr Kelly is prepared to travel the country seeking votes from the membership who he said should be the ones to make a final decision.
"This is a decision for the Labour Party members. We've thousands of members. We need to ensure that the decision we come to is driven by what the members want.
"They want to bring the party back to where it should be and that's forefront in my mind," he said yesterday.
Speaking at the annual James Connolly Commemoration in Arbour Hill, Mr Kelly said he didn't buy into "conspiracy theories" that other TDs in the party were working together to block his nomination.
He said he will listen to everything put forward by his colleagues at Tuesday's meeting, but added: "I also believe that everybody in the parliamentary party will consider what I say too.
"We're a membership-driven organisation. We are the most democratic party in the country and I believe that certainly will be to the fore of everybody's minds."
Mr Kelly and Mr Howlin stood side by side throughout yesterday's commemoration but the other two TDs who have expressed an interest in the leadership, Sean Sherlock and Jan O'Sullivan, did not attend.
Sources say both Mr Sherlock and Ms O'Sullivan are prepared are willing to step aside rather than become involved in what could turn into a bitter contest.
Mr Howlin insisted the leadership "is not about anybody looking for a position anymore".
"This is about how best individually and collectively we can resurrect a party that has been wounded but by God will resurrect," he said.
"I've spoken to everybody and I want everybody, without exclusion, to be part of a team that each will have their own task. I want to play whatever part the parliamentary party wants to give me in rebuilding the party.
"Politics is about practical doing. It's not about shouting on the sidelines. In times of crisis the Labour Party have traditionally stood up to do what is right."
Outgoing leader Joan Burton said she will not express any preference at Tuesday's meeting, but said the rules governing the succession rates are very clear.
Asked if it would be wrong for Labour's other TDs to prevent Mr Kelly putting his name forward, Ms Burton replied: "We've been through 70 days of strange and unusual politics. I would never like to deprive anybody of their constitutional right as set out in the Labour Party constitution."
SIPTU president Jack O'Connor said he is "not at liberty to express personal opinions" on who should be the next leader of the party, but added that he'd rather a consensus candidate.
"I don't think we have time to waste talking to ourselves. We have a job to do to correct the record in the way the Labour Party is perceived as a result of its participation in the last government," he said.