Kelly looks to have party's grassroots on his side in his bid for Labour leadership


Deputy Alan Kelly's bid to be Labour leader appeared to be on track this week as the party met in conclave in Dublin to discuss picking a successor to Joan Burton.

With the final deadline for nominations this coming Friday, the parliamentary party met for most of Tuesday and is meeting again this Wednesday thrashing out whether there should be a contest or a coronation.

Sources told The Tipperary Star this Tuesday that Deputy Kelly was “confident” he would at least get support to force the issue to a contest. If that happens, his most likely opponent will be former party deputy leader and Minister for Public Service Expenditure and Reform, Brendan Howlin, who failed in two previous attempts in 1997 and 2002 to get the top job. In contrast, Deputy Kelly became deputy leader on the first count after Eamon Gilmore stood aside following the disastrous 2013 local elections.

Deputy Kelly is, so far, the only TD to put his name forward officially, but reports all week have consistently stated that he will not get a seconder should he propose himself for the job. With Ms Burton and Willie Penrose opting out of supporting any candidate, he would need to convince Brendan Ryan, Jan O'Sullivan or Sean Sherlock to back him. If the sources prove correct, he has managed to get over the first hurdle in a race that could last for months. Some reports are suggesting that Limerick TD Ms O'Sullivan will second him to faciliate a contest.

Deputy Kelly is understood to have pleaded at Tuesday's meeting that there should be a contest on the basis that the party is the only political party in Ireland that allows its ordinary members to choose its leader.

He is also believed to have the party's grassroots behind him, with some reports stating that members feel they don't want a leader “imposed” on them. Others have said that no individual should be denied the right to contest an election for leader.

The former Minister for the Environment's combative style was said to be putting off other TDs from supporting him, but there was a time when Mr Howlin was regarded as the young turk, with a not too dissimilar style to Deputy Kelly. The Wexford TD has calmed over the years to become a more mature and reflective politician.

While the mood within the parliamentary party is not to have a contest, Deputy Kelly's strength would be in a direct appeal to the membership. He has been bolstered in that regard by some recent robust Dail performances and his appearance on last week's Late Late Show has gone down well with many inside and outside the party.

Deputy Kelly was unavailable for comment.