Alan Kelly or Ged Nash ideal as Labour leader, says Siptu boss

Labour TDs Alan Kelly and Ged Nash have both received backing to be the next leader of the Labour party from the head of Ireland’s largest trade union.

LaobSiptu president Jack O’Connor said both TDs had to retain their seats in the upcoming election but that either of the two would be best placed to take over if leader and Tánaiste Joan Burton was to step down.

The endorsement for the next leader of Labour from the head of Siptu, a union that traditionally supports the party, comes as the junior coalition partner holds its national conference this weekend.

Labour is potentially facing massive losses in the general election, with some predictions its Dáil seats will be halved to under 15. Others suggest Ms Burton’s own seat in Dublin West may be at risk.

In an interview with the Irish Examiner, Mr O’Connor singled out Environment Minister Alan Kelly and Employment Minister Ged Nash as most likely to take over from Ms Burton.

“Alan Kelly is deputy leader, with a very long record of involvement in the trade union movement,” said Mr O’Connor. “He says it as it is, you can certainly say that about him.

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“The people I would be looking to would be Alan Kelly or particularly Ged Nash. We have to see can they win their seats. Ged Nash has been there only a short time and he has achieved a great deal for working people in that time.”

Mr O’Connor said Siptu would likely be looking for pay rises averaging 5% across the private sector and would want the next government to encourage employers to meet these demands.

Meanwhile, Labour ministers ruled out negotiating with left-wing TDs after the election to make up the numbers for government.

Mr O’Connor had suggested this week that Labour should look to TDs such as Catherine Murphy, Tommy Broughan, or Thomas Pringle to shore up the numbers needed for a coalition with Fine Gael. He said this was needed to prevent Fine Gael getting a “monopoly of power” by relying on right-wing TDs for government.

However, Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin ruled out such an option last night.

Ahead of Labour’s conference, the Labour minister said the “country did not need complications doing a deal” with Independent TDs or smaller groups of TDs.

Earlier, Social Democrats TD Stephen Donnelly said his party would be open to talks with others after the general election. This included Fine Gael and Labour, said the Wicklow TD.

However, the new party was not interested in propping up a government, said Mr Donnelly.

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