Kelly strikes out at his critics in troubled Labour

Party colleagues should ‘step out of their comfort zones’

BACKLASH: Alan Kelly. Picture:
BACKLASH: Alan Kelly. Picture:

Alan Kelly has hit back at party colleagues who criticised him for questioning Brendan Howlin‘s leadership, by telling them they should get out of their “comfort zones” and speak to ordinary members of the Labour Party.

Mr Kelly was responding to a backlash from Labour TDs and senators after he called for a “radical shake-up” of the party and suggested Mr Howlin should step aside. Mr Howlin accused the Tipperary TD of “undermining” the work of the party, while Dublin Fingal TD Brendan Ryan said he was “totally p***ed” off with Mr Kelly.

Yesterday, Mr Kelly hit back by telling party colleagues they “need to look at themselves” before attacking him.

In a robust defence of his decision to criticise Mr Howlin, the former minister told parliamentary party members there was “no point in waltzing along without any analysis” of the party’s standing with voters.

“They are all good people and I respect the views of my parliamentary colleagues but I would ask them to consider the views of everyone in the party,” Mr Kelly told the Sunday Independent.

“I would ask some of them to get out of their comfort zones, leave their own areas and ask members across the country how they think things are going.”

Mr Kelly insisted those attacking him in the parliamentary party should contact Labour councillors and ask them their views on the party.

“Over a considerable period of time, I have been speaking to councillors and the reason I said we need to look at our leadership is because I have listened to people and analysed the party’s position following these conversations,” he added.

“My mission goes beyond the sitting TDs and senators, it’s to grow our parliamentary party. I would ask my colleagues to consider the future and the views of people across the party not just in their own base.”

Meanwhile, former Labour TD Michael McNamara said he was “losing confidence” in Mr Howlin’s ability to lead the party.

Mr McNamara said he was considering running for the party in the next general election but “doesn’t see the point” in putting his name forward because he “doesn’t know what Labour stands for”.

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Mr McNamara said Mr Howlin should either “lead, follow or get out of the way”.

“No one votes for parties on their achievements of the past and right now I don’t think voters can discern what the Labour Party stands for. I would like to see Brendan outline what it stands for but I am losing confidence in his ability to do so.”

The former Clare TD also said Mr Kelly would “bring more energy” to the party if he was elected leader.

“I was taken aback at the personalised attacks on Alan for merely articulating what is painfully obvious to everybody,” he added.

Last Friday, Mr Howlin and Mr Kelly spoke for around 40 minutes about the internal battle over the Labour leadership. However, they agreed not to publicise what they discussed.

The leadership is expected to dominate the Labour Party’s annual think-in which takes place in the coming weeks. Last month, 14 Labour councillors wrote to Mr Howlin seeking an urgent meeting to discuss his leadership.

Around the same time, a group of 16 Labour councillors issued a statement in support of Mr Howlin. A party source noted there was still a group of 20 Labour councillors who have not stated their position and their voices will be crucial when the party meets later this month.

The party has struggled to increase its support base since the last general election when they were reduced to seven Dail and three Seanad seats.

Almost every member of the parliamentary party is supporting Mr Howlin to remain as leader, and most have condemned Mr Kelly for seeking to oust the sitting Labour leader.

Sunday Independent

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