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Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie
New blood

Ireland's next Labour leader: Duncan Smith rules himself out and endorses Ivana Bacik

Smith says there was “no heave” against the ousted Alan Kelly.

LABOUR TD DUNCAN Smith has said he will not seek to be the leader of his party, endorsing Ivana Bacik TD for the role. 

Alan Kelly TD yesterday confirmed the unexpected news that he would be stepping down as party leader after his parliamentary party expressed no confidence in his leadership. 

Labour has seven TDs, with Dublin Fingal’s Smith and last year’s Dublin Bay South by-election winner Bacik seen as the most likely successors to Kelly. 

Labour Senator Marie Sherlock is among those who had said that Smith and Bacik were in poll position to succeed the Tipperary TD. 

Speaking on RTÉ’s News at One however, Smith said “it was not the right time” for him and that he was backing Bacik. 

“For me, it’s not the right time for me personally but secondly, and more importantly, I don’t believe I’m the best candidate for the job out of the current crop of TDs.”

I think Ivana Bacik is best placed and I’ve known Ivana for 10 years and was her director of elections last year for the Dublin Bay South by-election. I saw up close Ivana the politician, Ivana the person, I’ve seen how she can connect with people from all different backgrounds, from all different areas and she has a potent combination of freshness, experience and ability. 

Asked why the Labour parliamentary party had forced Kelly out, Smith said that the party “wasn’t making any momentum” and he referenced “the 2011-2016 legacy”. 

Speaking last night, Kelly said that he felt that his party  is “very much associated” with the Fine Gael-Labour government of 2011-2016. 

Smith also confirmed that he was one of three Labour representatives, along with Senator Mark Wall and Seán Sherlock TD, who informed Kelly on Tuesday that elected members of his party had lost confidence in his leadership. 

He says that Bacik was among those aware of that meeting. 

“We went as three people representing the entire parliamentary Labour Party, so we went as a collective, I’m the whip of the party,” he said. 

There was no orchestration, there was no heave. People won’t believe it and some people will look for various different plots and subplots. The reality was that we’ve been talking about this.

He added: “This wasn’t planned in any orchestrated way. And obviously it’s mortifying to be talking about this while the war in Ukraine is going on but we’ve been talking about this for a number of weeks.” 

Labour TD Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, who was defeated by Kelly in a leadership contest two years ago, has also backed Bacik to take over making her the overwhelming favourite. 

Surprise

Kelly’s departure as Labour leader, less than two years after he was elected to the position, has prompted surprise in political circles, with Taoiseach Micheál Martin saying he “didn’t see that coming at all”. 

“I rang Alan this morning, I was surprised and I would have some empathy with his position as a leader of a political party because it’s a very challenging position,” An Taoiseach told reporters today.

I want to thank him for his public service as leader of the Labour Party during a very, very difficult time in Ireland during Covid-19. It is fair to say that he put the country before his own short-term political advantage, in other words I think he worked in the national interest.

In the Dail today, Fine Gael leader and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar paid tribute to Kelly and said he “has much to be proud of” from their time in government together. 

“Some people will say that the Labour party has struggled to overcome its period in government, but you’ve a lot to be proud of quite frankly when it comes to the period in government during 2011 to 2016, which was a very difficult time,” Varadkar said. 

“In the early part of that government I was your senior minister in the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sports and you were the Minister of State there. We didn’t always agree but I think we did manage to get a lot of things done.”

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