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'The next generation': Who is likely to put their name forward as the next Labour leader?

There are four main contenders for the job to replace Brendan Howlin, but the task ahead for the winner is immense.

Who will be the next leader of the Labour Party?
Who will be the next leader of the Labour Party?
Image: Rollingnews.ie

LABOUR LEADER BRENDAN Howlin’s resignation yesterday did not come as a surprise to those in political circles, but it did come sooner than expected for some in the parliamentary party.

“That has thrown the cat among the pigeons,” said one Labour politician at yesterday’s press conference, where the Wexford TD announced that after four years as leader, he was stepping aside for a “new generation”. 

But who is that new generation? 

When asked what members standing behind him at yesterday’s media event in Dublin might be vying for his job, Howlin joked that he hoped they wouldn’t raise their hand just yet and would give him a moment to say his goodbyes. 

There are four men mooted to be in the running to be the next Labour leader. 

Alan Kelly

7208 Labour Party Source: Leah Farrell

It is no secret that Tipperary TD Alan Kelly wants to be the next leader of the party. 

In November 2017, he said Labour needed to see a “dramatic change” in how its support base responded to the party.

Speaking on TV3′s The Sunday Show with Sarah McInerney, Kelly didn’t hold back, effectively giving Howlin six months, with McInerney suggesting that Kelly was putting Howlin “on notice”.

Kelly, a politician who says that Labour is in his ‘DNA’, has never been one to shy away from his ambitions to be leader. 

He almost went for the top job in 2014, before calculating that he would not be in a position to beat Joan Burton, instead standing in and winning the deputy leadership contest.

Despite getting elected in 2016, Kelly didn’t enjoy the same support from his depleted cohort of Leinster House colleagues.

As Kelly then failed to get any of his fellow party members to second him for the leader of the Labour party, Brendan Howlin was elected. At the announcement in Dublin’s Royal College of Physicians, there was one notable absence in the room. Alan Kelly.

“I didn’t think it was my role that day being honest with you,” Kelly told TheJournal.ie in an interview.

Kelly, whose style hasn’t always pleased some of his party colleagues in the past, has openly said he wants to be Labour leader one day. When asked at a previous party think-in, he replied: “Yes, of course, at some time in the future.”

The Tipperary TD didn’t blink when telling this news outlet that the leadership is in his future.

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.

While there have been difficulties in the past with getting his other party colleagues on side, those issues are understood to be dealt with now, bringing the leadership one step closer for Kelly. 

labour 597 Source: Sam Boal

 Aodhán Ó Ríordáin

Aodhán Ó’Ríordáin is returning to the Dáil for the Dublin Bay North constituency thanks to transfers. 

This follows four years in the Seanad, a place he admitted was not his first choice. 

After an epic count in the RDS in 2016, lasting several days, Ó’Ríordáin lost his seat.

The former school principal has been mentioned in leadership discussions previously, having already served as a junior minister. However, his ascension to the Seanad prevented him from going for the leadership.

Now that he is back in the Dáil, there is nothing stopping him aiming for the top job in Labour.

0280 Labour Party Source: Leah Farrell

Ged Nash

Many in the media are touting the former senator Ged Nash as the frontrunner in the Labour leader contest. Before losing his seat in 2016, Nash was a super junior minister.

He won back his Dáil seat in the Louth constituency in this election.

The Louth TD previously held a portfolio in the Department of Jobs, so this might put him on the footing to be leader. 

90402000 Source: Leah Farrell

Sean Sherlock 

The former junior foreign minister previously finished second in the race for deputy leader of the party.

The Cork East TD has quiet support among members, but he has a relatively low-profile. 

So, how does the party go about electing a new leader?

Howlin said he has asked the Labour Party general secretary to begin making the arrangements for the nomination process and the membership election.

Labour’s executive board will meet this Saturday to approve the arrangements for the election of a new leader. 

New rules

The party’s rules around the leadership changed in recent years

The last time there was talk about the leadership, Kelly was searching for a nomination from his parliamentary colleagues. 

However, despite getting elected in 2016, Kelly didn’t enjoy the same support from his depleted cohort of Leinster House colleagues.

Failing to get any of his fellow party members to second him for nomination as leader of the Labour party, Brendan Howlin was elected.

However, it is no longer the case that a TD needs to get the nomination by a member of the parliamentary Labour Party. Though it is one option, and probably the most likely one that will be used by those going forward for the race. 

The rules do still stipulate that only members of Dáil Éireann are eligible for election (which means the leadership is out of reach to senators). This also rules out the only female potential leader, Senator Ivana Bacik, who was Labour’s director of elections this time around.

A candidate can be nominated in one of two ways, either with the backing of at least two members of a House of the Oireachtas or with the support of five Constituency Councils, under strict rules. 

If there is more than one candidate, a poll must be held.

The Labour Party will hold hustings for the competition, with the contest set to take about eight weeks before a new leader is elected through a one member, one vote system.

As Labour’s first preference votes dropped to 4.4% in this election the new leader will face the mammoth task of restoring the party’s credibility with the electorate.

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