Thursday 18 January 2018

O'Sullivan: 'I never told Kelly I'd back his bid for contest'

Labour TD Jan O’Sullivan has said she never told Alan Kelly she would back his bid to be party leader
Labour TD Jan O’Sullivan has said she never told Alan Kelly she would back his bid to be party leader

Cormac McQuinn and Kevin Doyle

Labour TD Jan O'Sullivan has said she never told Alan Kelly she would back his bid to be party leader to ensure there would be a contest.

As the row over Brendan Howlin's unopposed selection continued, the Limerick TD said: "At no stage did I tell Alan Kelly I would second him".

Referring to Mr Howlin, she added: "I supported the person I believed is best for the job."

Her remarks came as the party denied there was a "stitch-up" in how Mr Howlin was chosen to succeed Joan Burton.

Labour activist Joe Kemmy made the claim as he outlined what Ms O'Sullivan had told supporters about why she wasn't seconding Mr Kelly's nomination.

"She told us in clear and unequivocal terms that Brendan Howlin would withdraw and that in effect she would be electing Alan Kelly to the leadership," Mr Kemmy said.

Mr Kemmy feels there has been "a total stitch-up" in how "the membership were denied the opportunity to elect a leader."

Mr Kemmy said that while the process under which Mr Howlin was selected may have been within the party's rules, "nobody envisaged a situation whereby one candidate would not get a seconder" at the time they were devised. He claimed there was "spin" coming from the party about what happened.

"Machiavelli himself would have been unable to devise a situation or set a framework that precludes somebody else from challenging," he added.

Mr Kemmy said he had not been in contact with Mr Kelly for two years, but that his motive for speaking out was that he wanted to see a leadership contest no matter who won.

A Labour Party spokesman last night denied there had been a "stitch-up", saying: "That's unfounded. There's no truth to that whatsoever."

He said the election was "run in accordance with the party constitution which was voted for overwhelmingly when it was put to the membership in 2009".

Speaking earlier on Newstalk radio, Mr Howlin denied that he had told colleagues he would not run for the leadership if Mr Kelly was nominated.

Presenter Pat Kenny asked Mr Howlin if he had told Ms O'Sullivan he would quit the race if Mr Kelly was seconded by her or another TD.

"I didn't hear Jan say that and that would not be the character of our discussion," Mr Howlin replied.

He said he did "put forward the notion that we should have a consensus" and he believed this should be unanimous while others thought a majority view would be enough.


Asked again about Ms O'Sullivan's remarks to her supporters, Mr Howlin reiterated that he had "sought a consensus and I looked for everybody to be in agreement on that."

Mr Howlin added: "But whether I would have stood ultimately or not I hadn't made up my mind until I saw what the shape of the leadership of the party should look like."

He said the "overwhelming view" was that he "should take up the reins".

Mr Kelly told his local radio station Tipp FM that "Brendan, for his own reasons, some of them reasons I can understand, didn't want a contest. He was very clear on that. In that scenario he wouldn't be a candidate."

Mr Kelly added: "Jan told me on numerous occasions that she wanted a contest. She supported Brendan but wanted a contest."

He said that while he was "disappointed" not to be able to contest the leadership, he wanted to "move on" and would work with Mr Howlin.

Irish Independent

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