Brendan Howlin downplays rift as Alan Kelly snubs leader's unveiling

Wexford TD Brendan Howlin has been elected unchallenged to become the 12th leader of the Labour Party writes Daniel McConnell, Irish Examiner Political Editor.

He succeeds Joan Burton who resigned following the party's disastrous General Election result.

Mr Howlin denied he was a “reluctant” leader but said he was committed to rebuilding the party.

The press conference at which his election was declared was overshadowed by the absence of Tipperary TD Alan Kelly, who was unsuccessful in his bid to become leader.

Mr Howlin's name was the only name to go forward after Mr Kelly failed to secure a seconder among the six other Labour TDs.

For several days, Mr Kelly has sought the support of at least one of his colleagues to second his nomination but they resisted his advances, plumping for Mr Howlin instead.

Mr Kelly is popular among the grassroots but his parliamentary party colleagues were openly hostile to his bid to become leader.

In a statement to the Irish Examiner, Mr Kelly said the “wishes and entitlement”of Labour party members were denied by the lack of a contest but said he wished Mr Howlin well.

"I wish Brendan Howlin well as leader of the Labour Party and congratulate him on what is a proud day for him, his family, friends and supporters," he said.

Brendan Howlin downplays rift as Alan Kelly snubs leader's unveiling

"Over the past week I sought to ensure that the leadership of the party would be chosen by the members, by way of a contest and a democratic election. I further thought that a shortened contest would allow for re-engagement with our members and ensure a contest based on vision and ideas for the future direction of the party, where the best candidate would emerge with a clear mandate," Mr Kelly added.

"The rest of the parliamentary party took a different view to what I believe is the members wish and entitlement. I want to thank the huge volume of members who have confirmed that view to me," Mr Kelly said.

Brendan Howlin downplays rift as Alan Kelly snubs leader's unveiling

While not indicating his intentions as to whether he would remain in the party, sources close to Mr Kelly said he was unlikely to walk away.

For his part, Mr Howlin paid tribute to outgoing leader Joan Burton who he said History will remember her contribution kindly.

He also said Mr Kelly's absence at the press event was a “huge disappointment” but he stressed Mr Kelly's links to the Labour Party are deep rooted, and called on the former Deputy Leader to play his part in the regrowth of the party.

Mr Holwin said: “We have just come from a parliamentary party meeting and Alan wasn’t in attendance, I text him very early this morning.

“I know Alan to be a friend and a colleague, a man of great passion and ability and I hope he will be a very integral part of advancing the Labour part.

“Would I like every Labour party member, activist to be part of the revival? Yes, and I hope Alan will be."

He added that he had not received a reply from Mr Kelly the conference ended Mr Howlin said he had received a text from the Tipperary TD which read: “Best of luck Brendan, it’s a special day for you and your family”.

Mr Howlin paid tribute to former Labour leader Brendan Corish and his father John, who was Mr Corish's director of elections. He said the two men were instrumental in developing his links to the Labour Party.

At the press event, Former Labour party leader Joan Burton said a huge number of party members had indicated that they did not want a contest.

“I have had an opportunity to meet a huge number of members and in all of the meetings that I had, that I organised around the country and in Dublin and while it is correct to say there are people who would like a contest, there are also many many members who indicated very strongly a preference for a settlement, and that settlement should lead to the nomination process and that's just being honest with you,” she said.

Mr Howlin, 60 and unmarried, has served as a TD for the Wexford constituency since 1987 and was a member of the Seanad before that.

Former Leader Eamon Gilmore has welcomed Brendan Howlin as the new Leader of the Labour Party.

"Brendan's election is the right choice at this time,” said Gilmore

“He has the skills, experience and commitment to mobilise all the members in the urgent work of rebuilding the party.

“I intend to play my part as a party member to support Brendan in the challenging task ahead.”

In that time the former teacher has been Leas-Cheann Comhairle, Minister for the Environment, Minister for Health and Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.

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