Sunday 15 December 2019

Tough-talking Tipperary native with sporting pedigree

Daniel McConnell

ON his election to the European Parliament in 2009, Alan Kelly returned to his home village of Portroe, Co Tipperary, to a hero's welcome.

A large convoy of cars greeted him as he crossed the county lines.

"It is a small parish, but one of the most united in the country and I'm exceptionally proud to come from there," was Kelly's reaction.

Portroe, with its unionised quarry, is a rare Labour stronghold in rural Ireland and Kelly is steeped in the party's traditions.

He repeated his success 18 months later when he was elected to the Dail,and was quickly installed as junior transport minister by then Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore. A graduate of UCC, Kelly was previously elected to the Seanad in 2007.

During the four-week campaign brought on by Gilmore's resignation, the straight-talking 38-year-old former Failte Ireland business manager repeatedly stressed that he has "Labour in his DNA".

A brother of leading international businessman Declan Kelly, Alan is married to Regina and is a father to two children.

Kelly is renowned for his tough, committed style and while he has regularly clashed with his senior Minister Leo Varadkar in the Department of Transport, there is a mutual respect between the pair.

That direct style is not to everyone's cup of tea and Kelly is not universally popular within Labour. He is often compared to Willie Penrose, who proposed him while Dublin Mid West TD Robert Dowds seconded his nomination.

Kelly doggedly took to the road during the campaign and did the rubber chicken circuit in several counties in addition to the hustings. His team developed a detailed phone bank of members and had tracked likely voters.

A shoo-in for Cabinet, Kelly made a big play that the coming Budget would have to be "Labour proofed". He set his stall out insisting that something must be given back to hard-working families.

An ardent GAA and rugby man, he is a committed follower of Tipperary hurling, Munster rugby and Manchester United. As he left the Mansion House, Kelly said they were heading home to have a good night in Portroe.

Irish Independent

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