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Dublin: 8 °C Wednesday 20 March, 2019
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There's no mood for a leadership contest in the Labour Party

While Alan Kelly has put his name forward, it appears support is leaning towards Brendan Howlin.

LABOUR TDS ARE meeting today and although the small matter of leadership isn’t technically on the agenda, it is bound to come up, sources have said.

In the seven days since Joan Burton’s resignation, the playing field has shifted significantly for the party, which has just seven sitting TDs.

Initially, we were gearing up for a four-way contest including some of the party’s biggest names – four former ministers, no less.

However, soundings from insiders this afternoon is that members are in “no mood” for a contest.

Sources say that while it is still unclear what the outcome will be, the general feeling is that deputies do not want to travel the length and breadth of the country for hustings to elect a new leader.

(If there is a contest, ballots will have to be issued to more than 4,000 Labour party members.)

Joan Burton resignation Source: PA Wire/Press Association Images

One Labour party source said a straightforward, uncontested leadership choice would be the preferred option, stating they “really just needs to get on with it” and get work done in opposition.

Brendan Howlin had originally indicated that he would only be up for taking on the leadership – something his has contested twice for already – if there was to be no other nominee.

In contrast, deputy leader Alan Kelly came out, guns blazing, with some impassioned speeches about housing and Irish Water. The Tipperary deputy then appeared on The Late Late Show on Friday, telling the country about his lifelong ambition to land the top job.

Although he echoed the sentiment that the party probably wouldn’t launch into a full contest, he did firmly put his name in the mix.

Source: The Late Late Show/YouTube

But which way will the party lean? To the more experienced Howlin or the hungry Kelly?

Kelly described the party as a “family” which would come to a decision “collectively”.

He said he had already spoken to Howlin before Friday and it is believed he has had discussions with him ahead of today’s meeting also.

For his part, Howlin has said:

I’ve said many times I want to be the leader of the Labour Party … that’s my very straight and clear answer.

And it appears other party members want him too. Which could spell bad news for Kelly.

Just three TDs’ can be the prospective leaders’ seconders – which are required to even enter the contest.

Burton and Willie Penrose, the chairman of the parliamentary party, have said they will not get involved in the succession race.

Cork TD Seán Sherlock and Limerick TD Jan O’Sullivan last week said they were also thinking about going for the leadership but it is now understood they are in favour of Howlin if he puts himself forward.

That leaves just Brendan Ryan’s nod in play.

Nominations for the election of leader will close on Friday at noon. Kelly has until then to convince Ryan to save those powerful ambitions.

Read: Labour – including Alan Kelly – wants Irish Water to refund all payments>

Poll: Who should be the next leader of the Labour party?>

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