Labour rebel Alan Kelly warns party needs 'turnaround within months'
Labour, which was reduced to just seven TDs in the last general election from a record high of 37 deputies in the previous contest in 2011, has struggled badly in the opinion polls over the past 18 months.
Mr Kelly, a former Environment Minister, tried to contest the leadership in May 2016. But after a prolonged stand-off he failed to get a TD to second his nomination, and Mr Howlin was eventually returned as leader without a vote of the party members.
Since then, relations between the two TDs have been tense, and Mr Kelly, a TD for Tippperary, has made no secret of his ambitions to lead the Labour Party soon.
Appearing on TV3 on Sunday afternoon, he told presenter, Sarah McInerney, that Mr Howlin had his support as leader but he also warned that time was running short.
Deputy Kelly said: “Brendan Howlin has my support, however, however - let me say this very clearly - we need to see a dramatic change in how our support base is responding to us,” he said.
“We also need to see changes across a whole range of other issues.
“We are now two years from the past general election. We have loads of brilliant councillors and candidates out there. We need to see a dramatic change in the coming months for the support base of the Labour Party," he added.
When asked if he would give Mr Howlin six months to improve the party’s performance, Mr Kelly said: “I would say less than that.”
Mr Kelly said Labour had great local councillors and talented election candidates ready to contest the Dáil. He said it was almost two years from the last election in February 2016 and local and Euro elections were also due in 2019.
Mr Howlin hit back at Mr Kelly through his spokesman insisting all members of party should “focus on pulling in the same direction”.
“Since his election as party leader Brendan Howlin has repeatedly made clear to everyone in the Labour Party needs to focus on pulling in the same direction and that if we do so, we can and will make gains again when the next election comes,” the spokesman said.
It is understood Mr Howlin did not see the programme and was unaware Mr Kelly planned to issue an ultimatum.