Tuesday 22 October 2019

Alan Kelly isolated by colleagues over Labour leadership coup

Labour TD Alan Kelly. Photo: Collins
Labour TD Alan Kelly. Photo: Collins

Shona Murray

Labour TD Alan Kelly's attempted coup against his party leader Brendan Howlin has isolated him from his colleagues.

Almost all of the party's Oireachtas members have expressed disapproval at Mr Kelly's persistent pursuit of the party's leadership.

The Tipperary TD yesterday called for a "radical shake-up" within the party and said he agreed with councillors calling for change at the top.

"We need a radical shake-up. We need to change the direction of the party. We need a different vision. We need far more energy," he told the Irish Independent.

He also reiterated his ambition to put his name forward for a leadership contest should the vacancy arise.

However, his power play has not gone down well with other members of the party.

Labour TD for Limerick Jan O'Sullivan branded Mr Kelly's outburst a "distraction".

She added: "We have a lot of work to do in terms of homelessness and health and education, and we're supposed to be thinking about the election, and this is a real distraction.

"I wish Alan would just stop. I'm with Brendan because he was elected leader, so let's just get on with it."

In the party's constitution, the leadership isn't up for renewal until after the next election.

Dublin Fingal TD Brendan Ryan was another party member who threw his support behind Mr Howlin when contacted by the Irish Independent yesterday.

He said: "I absolutely support Brendan Howlin. I'm totally p***ed off with him [Mr Kelly] and I told him that".

Mr Ryan said "solid Labour Party members" were working hard in his constituency and talking to people to add to the number of seats in the next local elections.

"And then we come in off that work on the ground and we listen to his kind of stuff coming through the media.

"It's so frustrating. It's killing people."

Meanwhile, Mr Howlin has insisted he will not be stepping down as leader and accused Mr Kelly of "undermining" the party's work.

"I'm surprised he said what he said. It is very unhelpful. Right now the focus of the entire parliamentary party is to rebuild the party and get our candidates elected," he said.

It is understood Mr Kelly and Mr Howlin spoke on the phone yesterday and no decision regarding the sacking of Mr Kelly has been made.

The former environment minister launched an unsuccessful bid to become leader after Joan Burton resigned following a poor result in the 2016 General Election.

However, he has made no secret of his active ambition to take over, and last year gave Mr Howlin six months to alter the party's fortunes during an interview on live television.

Labour has struggled to make any traction on fundamental matters facing the State and the electorate, and its low, stagnant polling reflects this.

Party sources say they are having trouble finding suitable candidates to run in the general and local elections.

The problem is most acute in areas that were once Labour strongholds in parts of Kerry and Cork.

Just weeks ago, 14 Labour councillors sought a meeting with Mr Howlin to discuss his future and "the need for change". Despite the rumblings, the clear consensus among Oireachtas members is that there is no vacancy for the party leadership.

Senator Kevin Humphreys told the Irish Independent: "This is not helping the Labour Party - we're talking about an internal battle when we should be talking about important issues facing the country and how Labour can come up with policies to deal with them."

Former communications minister Alex White described Mr Kelly's efforts as "commendable". However, he added: "The problem is that Alan seems to conflate ambition for himself with ambition for the party. It's as if for Alan, it's all about Alan."

Party support

Joan Burton: “As former leader I am staying out of this.”

Willie Penrose: “Disappointed in Alan Kelly.” Aodhán Ó Riordáin: No reponse.

Sean Sherlock: No answer but understood to be unsupportive of the attempted coup.

Jan O’Sullivan: Annoyed by Alan Kelly’s actions; supports Brendan Howlin.

Brendan Ryan: Angered by Alan Kelly’s actions and behind Brendan Howlin. Kevin Humphries: “I support Brendan Howlin.”

Ged Nash: “I support Brendan Howlin.”

Irish Independent

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