Why They Can’t Quit Him



From top: Brendan Howlin and Alan Kelly at Labour Party’s Annual James Connolly Commemoration at Arbour Hill Cemetry yesterday; Derek Mooney

Labour’s Alan Kelly rose without trace and now won’t go away.

Derek Mooney writes:

“There’s no Labour problem that Ken (Livingstone) can’t make worse.”

This was Alan Johnson’s response to the former London Mayor’s latest unwelcome intervention in a UK Labour row.

Substitute the name “Alan Kelly” for “Ken Livingstone” and Johnson’s axiom could just be as applicable here.

Perhaps it’s his pugnacious ‘I tell it like it is’ style, but Alan Kelly has come to be personally identified with two of the last government’s biggest political failures: Irish Water to the housing crisis, not to mention his “power is a drug… it suits me” interview or his penchant for adding to his own party’s travails.

While Kelly’s supporters can argue that he inherited the policy messes that were Irish Water and housing/homelessness, he knew what he was getting into and still decided that the best approach was the one he adopted: the unpopular populist.

So, why is the Labour party giving even the slightest consideration to making Kelly its next leader?

The sad reality for Ireland’s oldest political party is that the choices facing it are severely limited. While it can opt for the safe pair of hands that it is Brendan Howlin, Howlin comes with a lot of baggage, not least over 20 years as a political insider, even when Labour was in opposition, Howlin managed to hold office as Leas Ceann Comhairle 2007 – 2011.

Sean Sherlock may seem, in contrast, like a more likeable and fresher option, indeed the 400+ people who replied to my Twitter poll rated him much higher than Kelly, but that very freshness that may be his biggest weakness.

Sherlock has never been seriously tested and does he possess the gravitas or presence to carve out a niche for Labour against so many bigger opposition beasts? The same questions hang over Jan O’Sullivan.

So does Labour have to take another look at Kelly?

It’s the question Labour TDs will be asking themselves over the coming days and – depending on their decision – it may be the question that party members will have to wrestle with thereafter, if Kelly’s nomination can get past the parliamentary party.

Given that Kelly secured over 50% of the vote when he won the Deputy Leadership back in July 2014, the parliamentary party would be unwise to deny members the right to have the final say.

To deny Kelly the right to run, in favour of a Howlin coronation, may look like a good idea on paper, but it is the last thing that a party – that is now closer to extinction than Fianna Fáil was back in early 2011 – should do

Labour needs to reconnect itself with its members and supporters – finding a way to cut the membership out of deciding on who should lead the fightback, is no way to start that fightback.

If they handle it right Labour can benefit from having a leadership contest, with plenty of constituency hustings, where members get to grill those looking to lead them back from the wilderness.

Let Kelly run. Let him explain his record as deputy leader and his central role in the party’s demise and – most importantly – allow him the opportunity to show if there is something… anything… more to him than political ambition and hunger.

How much do we really know about Kelly, even after last Friday’s Late Late Show interview and his July 2015 Saturday Night with Miriam one?

No a lot, I suspect – well not anything substantive. There is more than a hint of the “rose without trace” about Kelly.

It is as if he arrived fully formed on the political scene back in 2007 when he became a Senator.

His progress to the Cabinet table was fast-tracked thereafter in two-yearly steps: in 2009 he was elected to the European Parliament; in 2011 he returned from Europe to become a T.D. (managing to jump two steps in one bound by becoming a Minister of State within a month of becoming a TD), leading finally to his becoming deputy leader and Minister for the Environment in 2014.

Though his supporters may point to his less than flattering media coverage as a counter argument, to the outside observer Kelly has had a charmed political career to date.

He has moved seamlessly up the political ranks and achieved senior ministerial office in the same time that it has taken others to manage to just make it on to the local Council (or not, in the case of yours truly).

Has that all been due to his drive and ambition alone?

Perhaps it has – and as other pundits have observed, drive energy and ambition are in desperately short supply in the Labour party right now.

But so too is humility and the capacity to recognise just how far out of touch the Labour Party became with its voters under Gilmore Burton and Kelly.

Are these traits readily associated with Kelly? That’s a matter the Labour party members will have to consider in the weeks ahead – if they are given the chance.

Derek Mooney is a communications and public affairs consultant. He previously served as a Ministerial Adviser to the Fianna Fáil led government 2004 – 2010. Follow Derek on Twitter: @dsmooney


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35 thoughts on “Why They Can’t Quit Him

  1. K

    “He previously served as a Ministerial Adviser to the Fianna Fáil led givernment(sic) 2004-2010”

    Stopped reading there tbh

      1. Birneybau2

        Ha! Exactly what I was going to say.

        I stopped reading at: Follow derek on Twitter: @dsmooney

  2. diddy

    An FF advisor from 2004 – 2010 is not someone anyone should be taking advice from.

  3. Walter-Ego

    Alan Kelly is like a jilted ex, he just can’t seem to let Irish water go. Then again junkies can’t help themselves.

  4. Clampers Outside!

    ” Has that all been due to his drive and ambition alone? ”

    Likely more to do with the fact there was little to no competition, in all fairness.

    The man is a chancer… houses up by Christmas at €180k a pop, major over run in time to be ready and cost as much as a standard house…. reduce the size of apartments…. no ceiling height increases in apartments… and now we’re hearing of a return to bedsits….

    Alan ‘Ass Kisser’ Kelly is a bit of a thick in fairness, likes “to be seen” to be playing hardball without actually looking at the consequences of his actions…. reducing apartments to sizes that literally cannot be built is a prime example of Alan’s gung-ho ‘I’ll fix it’ attitude which has the foresight of that Magoo character from the WB cartoons…. none.

    And targeting apartment dwellers effects who the most, as in who lives in them the most… oh yeah, working classes. So Alan wants to reduce the standard of living for the less well off, so that developers can make a profit…… seriously, why anyone thinks he’s ‘left’ at all is beyond me.

    The sooner he goes away the better, and he’s no more left than my right testicle.

  5. Tish Mahorey

    He is driven by ego. So he the worst person to be a politician. A genuine one.

  6. DubLoony

    He implemented the water services act that included a plebiscite section.
    Which means if anyone wants to privatize water, there has to be a public vote on it first, it can’t be done by ministerial pen alone.
    It also stopped any threat of reducing water levels to any home for non-payment of bills, removed the requests for PPS numbers among other measures.


    So no privatization, bills limited & no-ones water gets turned off.

    1. MoyestWithExcitement

      No, a plebiscite means a Dail vote is enough. The public need not be consulted.

      1. DubLoony

        Now you are making it up.
        From the Act that I posted the link for if anyone cares to check.

        (1) A Bill providing or allowing for the alienation of any share or shares in Irish Water to
        a person other than a Minister of the Government shall not be initiated by or on behalf
        of a Minister of the Government in either House of the Oireachtas unless—
        (a) a Resolution of each such House is passed approving a proposal to provide or
        allow for such alienation,
        (b) a proposal to provide or allow for such alienation is submitted by Plebiscite for
        the decision of the People, and
        (c) a majority of the votes cast in such Plebiscite shall have been cast in favour of the

        1. MoyestWithExcitement

          I’m not making up anything. That is what a plebiscite is. A parliament vote is all thays needed. If this bill has given a new definition of the word, fair enough but then it’s not a plebiscite.

        2. jungleman

          They can amend that legislative provision without referendum. You are the fool here dubloony

    2. some old queen

      Jazus DubLoony you are another one who is like a broken record. This topic has been trashed out on more than one occasion and you know the result. Is your short term memory failing or something?



  7. DubLoony

    On housing, 3.5 billion was allocated.
    Why has SF controlled Dublin City Council not made more progress on implementation? Utter incompetence?

    He has faults alright. But also take a close look at those who are yelling loudest.

  8. Spaghetti Hoop

    Why mention Ken Livingstone when everyone knows that the links between the Irish Labour Party and Britain’s are so thin and dismissive?

  9. TheDude

    Comes down to a choice between SOPA and AK 47 contracts for my bro, Labour is done.

  10. Eoin

    Kelly is a career robot. He will do anything to further his position. The Dail is filled with them now. It doesn’t matter who Labour elect as leader, they are finished. Their one and only mandate for existence was to represent the worker. They’ve betrayed that mandate and the worker. They will now be replaced by grass roots Labour movements born out of the anti austerity groups. Turn up to the next ‘water protest’ to see what I’m on about.

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