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'I thought we had a good working relationship': Brendan Howlin calls Alan Kelly's comments 'unhelpful'

The Tipperary TD said the Labour Party needs “radical change”.

Updated Aug 31st 2018, 4:13 PM

LABOUR LEADER BRENDAN Howlin has said Alan Kelly’s comments this morning calling on him to stand aside are “unhelpful”. 

The party leader told TheJournal.ie that he was “disappointed” to hear the Tipperary TD state that in order to bring about a “radical change” within the party, that Howlin should go.  

Howlin told this publication that he met with Kelly last week, where they discussed party policy.

He said he thought he had a “good working relationship” with Kelly, in terms of where the party was going.

Since hearing the comments today, Howlin said he has been trying to make contact with Kelly, but to no avail. 

“I have been trying to ring him to speak to him, but I think he is tied up.” 


Speaking on his local radio station, Tipp FM this morning, Kelly said Howlin is not the right man to lead the party.

 At present the party is in a “very difficult situation”, he added.

Kelly said the Labour Party needs to “change the direction of the party” while also pointing out the party needs a “different vision” and more “energy”. 

The Tipperary TD said the “radical shake-up” is needed to ensure the party is in a good position ahead of the next election, stating that change is needed in order to “bring people with us”. 

“At this moment in time that is no happening,” he said, adding that he also sees no plans to make it happen. 

Speaking about a change of leadership, he said: 

It does need that significant change, yes…
I think Brendan needs to consider what is best for the Labour Party into the future.
I certainly believe from a leadership point of view after two and a half years we haven’t been able to turn the ship around. We haven’t even looked like we’re turning the ship around.

Source: Tipp FM Radio/SoundCloud

Howlin said he took on the leadership of the party under the “full understanding of how difficult it was going to be”. He added that he understood there is a “base group of people the party needs to reconnect to”. 

He called Kelly’s “unhelpful” adding that it gives the impression that the Labour party is not “settled”. 

This is not the first time that Kelly has called on Howlin to consider stepping aside, and it is timely that the Labour Party think-in in Drogdheda is due to take place in two weeks time before the Dáil resumes.

Leader on notice

Kelly previously threw his party leader down the gauntlet when he told TV3′s The Sunday Show with Sarah McInerney that while he supported Labour leader Brendan Howlin, change was urgently needed.

He said: “[Brendan Howlin] has my support.

However, let me say this very clearly. We need to see a dramatic change in how our support base is responding to us.

 “We’re not two years from the last general election,” he said. “We would need to see a dramatic change in support for the Labour party. I would say in less than six months.”

Bringing the interview to a close, McInerney suggested that Kelly was putting Brendan Howlin “on notice”.

Fast forward six months to May of this year and Kelly indicated that he was no longer gunning for Howlin’s job. 

He told TheJournal.ie

I said I would support him and I will honour that commitment, because I gave it at the time when we all were on the brink of an election.

Pressure has been mounting on Howlin ever since councillors put their name to a letter recently calling on Howlin to step aside. However, until now, the parliamentary party has largely stayed on his side.

Kelly has said the letter was not his instigation, adding that Howlin should have met with the councillors. 

He said that any politician who said polls don’t matter are lying, stating the polls for the Labour party are deeply concerning. 

The Tipperary TD has inidicated that he sees leadership in his future. He told the radio station that he acknowledges that he is still tarnished with the being in government during the years of austerity.

Kelly said the public still seems the party as still being in government, to some extent. 

This isn’t about me, this is about the Labour Party… if the position was vacant I would put my name forward. 

Kelly told TheJournal.ie in an interview previously:

There’s nothing wrong with ambition. I think actually Irish people admire self-confidence and ambition but I think that some people try to portray in a way that is begrudgery. I think begrudgery often comes from those who maybe are afraid of going to achieve what they want to achieve or perhaps haven’t put their head above the parapet.

The Tipperary TD’s comments today have sparked anger within his own party, with chairperson of the Labour Party, Willie Penrose stating that he is “disappointed” by  Alan Kelly’s interview this morning. 

I have no problem with anyone who has ambitions to lead the Labour Party, but if that’s what anyone wants he or she should respect the Party’s Constitution and the agreed processes through which the Party chooses its leader. We have a vibrant internal democracy unlike some other parties, and every Councillor, Senator and TD will have an equal chance to have their say at our meeting in Drogheda on 16-17 September.

“The Labour Party has had three leaders in the space of five years. Having a fourth leader is not going to magically improve our poll ratings.

“No one is sanguine about the poll figures, but Irish politics is still in a state of flux and, as a smaller Party, Labour’s first preference score is affected by the range of new options open to voters. It is a much more competitive environment with new, smaller left and centre-left parties out there,” he said. 

Penrose, who is not seeking re-election the next time around, said the party has a collective leadership, and every one of the elected representatives must share responsibility for the poll results. 

“Labour is focused on finding sustainable solutions and the current focus on personalities is a distraction from the real issues that are affecting people’s lives,” he concluded. 

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