Labour members urge TDs to permit contest for leadership

Alan Kelly struggling to secure nomination from among parliamentary party ranks

A group of Labour members have called on TDs to allow any deputy who wants to compete to succeed Joan Burton as party leader to enter into a contest. Tipperary TD Alan Kelly is keen to compete for the role but has not yet had his candidacy seconded by another TD. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times.

A group of Labour members has called on TDs to allow any deputy who wants to compete to succeed Joan Burton as party leader to enter into a contest.

An open letter, sent to Longford-Westmeath TD and parliamentary party chairman Willie Penrose, is seen as supporting Alan Kelly's bid but has thus far only been signed by a small number of supporters.

The contest is seen as one between Wexford TD Brendan Howlin and Mr Kelly. The Tipperary deputy, however, is facing opposition from within the parliamentary Labour party, which is meeting on Tuesday evening.

Those seeking to run for the leadership need a proposer and seconder from among the ranks of party TDs. Mr Kelly can propose himself but sources say he is struggling to find a seconder among the other six Labour TDs.


Sources supporting the former minister for the environment insist he has a seconder but have not said which TD it is. Mr Howlin has strong support among TDs and has already called for a “consensus” candidate to emerge from the parliamentary party, although he says he is not afraid of a contest.

The letter, posted on social media, is addressed to Mr Penrose in “connection with the upcoming Labour Party leadership election”.


It is copied to party chairperson Lorraine Mulligan and general secretary Brian McDowell. Labour sources say most of the 35 signatories to date are from the party's youth wing.

Mr Kelly has already made a pitch over the heads of his Dáil colleagues to the party membership as part of his efforts to become leader. The deadline for entries is Friday.

“Recent media speculation suggests that there may be no ballot of members and that a single candidate for leader would be proposed by the parliamentary party,” the letter says. “It is our strongly held view as members that this is the wrong course of action.

“We are firmly of the opinion that any TD who wishes to contest the leadership election should be facilitated with a nomination by his/her colleagues in the PLP and that a vote of members should then take place.

“This is the most equitable way of ensuring that the membership has a full voice in who is to become the next leader of our party, especially after what was a very difficult and bruising election.

“We therefore call on you and on the party chairperson, to ensure that the members have a vote to decide the new leader, and that should any TD in the PLP that wishes to run be facilitated with a nomination and duly seconded where necessary.”