Alan Kelly: ‘Labour should stay in opposition unless it doubles seats’

Alan Kelly celebrates his election in 2016.

Labour should remain in opposition after the next general election, unless the party can at least double its Dáil seats to 15 TDs, Alan Kelly has insisted.

The TD’s comments come amid continuing grassroots concern that Labour’s support is stagnating and that the party is increasingly being overshadowed by Sinn Féin, and other rival left-leaning parties, such as the Social Democrats and Solidarity-People Before Profit.

Almost two years after Labour’s disastrous February, 2016 election — the 37 seats it won in 2011 slumped to just seven — Mr Kelly said he has an open mind on Labour potentially returning to power.

However, noting the fact of Labour’s current poor representation in the Dáil, he said: “I have an open mind on that; Labour will always be a party of government and we’re not afraid of it. But we shouldn’t go in if we’re anywhere near where we are now, so we need to get up to at least 15 TDs.

“If we don’t, we may not go into government. I think we need to get to a certain level and, if not then, anyone forming a government may be doing it without us.”

While still far below the 37 seats watershed of the Gilmore gale, in 2011, any hopes Labour will be able to win at least 15 seats in the next election are in doubt, because the party is continuing to struggle to make in-roads in poll support.

Mr Kelly said Labour is open to cutting a deal with all parties, but criticised Sinn Féin, which he described as “populist” and “jumping at anything that’s flavour of the month”.

In a focused attack on Sinn Fein, Mr Kelly noted that both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have hinted, in recent weeks, that their resistance to a coalition with Sinn Féin may be waning, saying “if you want to avoid them, you should elect and vote for Labour”.

Mr Kelly claimed it is “laughable Eoin Ó Broin, with his magic wand, can solve the housing crisis, as if he’s some intellectual genius”, and accused the likely new leader of Sinn Féin, Mary Lou McDonald, of “crying wolf” at every opportunity.

Although Labour has been to the forefront of uncovering a series of garda scandals, providing a reasoned, pro-choice argument for repealing the Eighth Amendment, and other matters, in recent months, the party is consistently stalling in the polls, at around 5%.

The current poll situation means that any hope of the party more than doubling its seat numbers at the next election is unlikely, unless a significant support boost occurs.

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