Tuesday 21 November 2017

Howlin set to block Kelly 'coronation' if others stay out of battle to be leader

Brendan Howlin (Picture: Tom Burke)
Brendan Howlin (Picture: Tom Burke)

Cormac McQuinn and Kevin Doyle

Veteran Labour TD Brendan Howlin looks set to block plans for a 'coronation' of Alan Kelly as leader as he contemplates entering the race to succeed Joan Burton.

It's understood that Mr Kelly will announce his intention to run for leader on tomorrow night's 'Late Late Show'.

Now Mr Howlin - who initially appeared to shy away from the contest is said by senior sources to be leaning towards a third bid to be leader, if other contenders Seán Sherlock and Jan O'Sullivan stay out of the race. One source said a situation couldn't be allowed to develop whereby half the party's TDs were on the ballot paper. "Given the numbers it would be bizarre if three or four TDs contested it."

Mr Howlin and Ms O'Sullivan have said they will take the weekend to decide whether or not to enter the race, while Mr Sherlock was last night said to be "not commenting" on the matter.

Ms Burton announced she was stepping down as leader on Tuesday after Labour's disastrous election. The party's executive board is to meet to decide on the process of selecting the next leader. Previously when Eamon Gilmore resigned in 2014 there was a series of hustings around the country that lasted several weeks.

Wexford TD and former Public Expenditure Minister Mr Howlin was asked about his intentions on RTÉ Radio. "Everybody's interested who's involved in politics in leading their party," he replied.

"Clearly I've offered myself twice in the past to be leader of the Labour Party. I've devoted my entire adult life to building the party so I am 100pc committed to its future." He said he would give "serious reflection" to whether or not he will stand for the leadership. Mr Howlin said that the party would require a "new type of leadership" now that it's not a group of "50 to 60 parliamentarians".

He said of the seven remaining TDs and five Senators: "We're a small group. It has to be a collective leadership where all of us work together." Mr Howlin said he wants Labour to be "a much more campaigning party" with more contact with its councillors and local activists. He conceded that there is an "existential threat to Labour" but said he is "extremely optimistic about the future.

Mr Howlin said it was a "mistake" that the party didn't exit government with Fine Gael over the water charges issue.

He said Labour didn't get its way in terms of the timescale for the delivery of Irish Water.

"That was a real big mistake. We should have, even if it meant breaking down the Government at that stage. We should have held our ground on that."

While, sources believe Mr Howlin is more likely to enter the race if there are limited number of candidates, Limerick City TD Ms O'Sullivan is still considering throwing her hat into the ring.

She told the Irish Independent she will make a decision by early next week after consulting with her family and supporters over the weekend.

"I'll have to think about it as well," she said adding that she also believes that there is an appetite in the party for a more "collaborative" leadership.

Irish Independent

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