Monday 20 November 2017

Kelly will be a force in Irish politics for as long as the people of Tipp want him

The photo of seven pints tweeted on Friday by Deputy Alan Kelly with the message: 'The seven stages of leadership'
The photo of seven pints tweeted on Friday by Deputy Alan Kelly with the message: 'The seven stages of leadership'
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

"Talk about being psychoanalysed" was Alan Kelly's response after his seemingly cryptic tweet went viral on Friday night.

The image of seven pints of Guinness, some more touched than others, was posted just hours after Brendan Howlin's coronation took place a stone's throw away from Leinster House.

It was an event which, rather petulantly, Mr Kelly refused to turn up for.

He was instead sitting at his kitchen table in Tipperary, asking himself how it all went wrong.

Battered and bruised he was left wondering why not a single one of his Labour colleagues was willing to support his nomination for the Labour leadership.

Mr Kelly was also undoubtedly pondering over his quite impressive interview on 'The Late Late Show' a week earlier, during which he declared his ambitions to lead the party founded in the Tipperary town of Clonmel.

With Joan Burton and Willie Penrose opting to detach themselves from the process, three TDs stood in the way of Mr Kelly and his dreams of becoming leader.

Jan O'Sullivan, Brendan Ryan and Sean Sherlock had other ideas.

There would be no contest, no opportunity for Mr Kelly to tour the country in a bid to persuade the 4,000 Labour members that he is the right person to revive the party.

And so, over a period of seven days, Mr Kelly's leadership ambitions sank in spectacular fashion.

The experience was nothing short of a humiliation for the man who infamously described power as a "drug".

With the Labour parliamentary party reduced to just seven TDs, the immediate suggestion was that Mr Kelly's tweet at 8.25pm on Friday was a thinly veiled swipe at colleagues whom he had just described as "family" days earlier.

Not so, insists the combative Tipperary deputy.

He was merely out enjoying a few pints in his local pub and sanctuary of Ciss Ryan's in Garrykennedy, Portroe with, you guessed it, six of his closest friends.

The tweet does however provide a stark reminder that Alan Kelly is a politician like none other.

He wears his heart on his sleeve and is brutally honest, often to his own detriment.

Without a doubt, he is a politician who hates to lose.

The leadership is not the first battle he has lost during his meteoric rise in Irish politics.

That is evident in relation to Irish Water, a crisis Mr Kelly inherited and did his best to address.

And it won't be his last battle either.

But as we enter a period which, we are told, will be shaped by a new type of politics, we must consider what kind of politician we want leading the small number of political parties that are out there.

Do we want politicians who put their party and own political ambitions before the interests of the country, as was evident recently in relation to the scrapping of water charges?

What about politicians who decide to flip a coin to determine the minor issue of who takes up the office of a minister first?

And of course, what about the politicians who run a country mile once the prospect of taking on proper responsibility comes their way?

Alan Kelly is abrasive, difficult to deal with and at times naive. But he does have courage and conviction.

Aged 40, Mr Kelly will consider if, or perhaps when, he will exit the political arena and pursue a career elsewhere.

His party may have blocked his leadership ambitions - for now.

But make no mistake about it, AK47 will be a central force in politics for as long as the people of Tipperary want him.

Irish Independent

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