'We must bring back a sense of solidarity to the public' - Kelly and Ó Ríordáin face-off in Labour hustings

Hard truths were spelled out on Thursday night as Alan Kelly and Aodhán Ó Ríordáin battle to become Labour leader.

'We must bring back a sense of solidarity to the public' - Kelly and Ó Ríordáin face-off in Labour hustings

Hard truths were spelled out on Thursday night as Alan Kelly and Aodhán Ó Ríordáin battle to become Labour leader.

Both men set out their stalls to the party membership in a hotel in Dublin's north.

Members heard from both candidates that Labour have lost the trust of the voters, but are divided on how it's won back, as the party reels from February's election results, with just six TDs representing the party in the Dail.

Mr Ó Ríordáin, a former teacher and school principal in inner city Dublin, opened the event, remarking it was a "genuine conversation within the Labour party of where we go next", telling the crowd: "People have fallen out of love with us."

"Labour must bring back a sense of solidarity and compassion to the Irish public," he added, centering his campaign for the party around a "fit-for-purpose organisation with a ‘win-back’ strategy for every constituency".

"Leadership is not something you can switch on, but something you can't switch off," he added.

Mr Kelly began his opening remarks with some frank comments about the last eight years.

"We lost our way considerably," he said.

"We haven't been relevant, we simply have not.

We're not viewed as agents of change and failed to click with our supporters and present ourselves to be those agents of change.

Mr Kelly has called for root and branch restructuring for the party, harnessing technology, and campaigning with passion, "printing off a few leaflets isn't going to cut it anymore".

The crowd of over 100, of varying age, but more older than younger in the crowd, asked about appealing to youth, women and reaching disabled voters and parents.

During the question and answer session, Mr Kelly said he felt the party had ruled themselves out of government formation talks too early, but does not think the party should enter government at the moment.

Likewise Mr Ó Ríordáin said he felt "if there is a dance we should be dancing, but it would have to be a hell of a deal" in order to get the Labour party back into government at the minute.

Notably in the first 90 minutes of the event, there was no direct mention of Labour's time in minority government with Fine Gael in 2011 and the policies that were implemented during that time, despite the party suffering in the polls ever since.

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