Labour well placed to double Dáil seats in next election, Kelly says

Labour leader says there is ‘huge space’ for party in post-Covid transition period

Labour Party leader Alan Kelly with recently elected Dublin Bay South TD Ivana Bacik at the Labour think-in at the Clanard Court Hotel in Athy, Co Kildare

Labour Party leader Alan Kelly with recently elected Dublin Bay South TD Ivana Bacik at the Labour think-in at the Clanard Court Hotel in Athy, Co Kildare

 

Labour leader Alan Kelly has predicted his party is in a good position to double its Dáil representation from seven to 14 at the time of the next general election.

Buoyed by the recent success of Ivana Bacik in the Dublin Bay South byelection, Mr Kelly said the party would experience strong growth as no other party could better adapt to the situation following the Covid-19 crisis.

Speaking at the start of his parliamentary party’s two-day meeting in Athy, Co Kildare, Mr Kelly said the political priorities emerging now dovetailed with Labour policies.

“I believe there is huge space for the Labour Party in this transition period post-Covid. Everything has changed. In that vacuum, people want to see leadership in what we can achieve in public services, in healthcare, in the environment, in a whole range of other area.

“The Labour Party is the best party to embrace that change as we are natural in the space of public services.”

He instanced his repeated suggestion over the years for the State to buy private hospitals for public use. He said that had previously been dismissed out of hand but was now no longer being dismissed.

He said the party still had a lot of work to do but that it would inevitably grow in the next electoral contests.

“In winning the byelection we demonstrated what we can do. We are a party that is organised all over the country. We have excellent councillors. Of the four mayors in Dublin, we have three female mayors.

“We certainly will be pushing those qualities to increase that percentage and increase it substantially into next year,” he said.

Merger

Asked about a possible future merger with the Social Democrats – which many commentators regard as almost identical to Labour in terms of ideology and outlook – he refused to speculate. “We will be concentrating on ourselves today. What the Social Democrats do is up to themselves.

“We have demonstrated what we are capable of from the byelection. Whoever wants to join us can join us at any time.”

Mr Kelly stressed his party’s credentials in willing to serve in government when required. However, similarly, he would not discuss any of the party’s thinking on Sinn Féin but added it did not rule anyone in or out.

“We are unique in that we are a party that will always look to go into government but that’s based on what [the situation is] before or after a general election.

“We are a party that does not rule anyone in or anyone out, it’s as simple as that.

“There is a long road to go. This Government has to cling together out of fear of necessity. This could last a while. I don’s see us having to consider an election in the near future.”

No-confidence motion

Mr Kelly reiterated his view that his party was supporting the motion of no confidence in Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney but not with any great enthusiasm.

“We don’t have confidence in the Government and will be voting against [the Government].

“Do I feel is this a priority now for the Irish people? No, it isn’t.

“The Irish people do not see this as the biggest political priority. I have had nobody coming to speak to me on it. There are bigger issues including health, justice, education and climate change.”

At the conference Ms Bacik was announced as the new spokeswoman on climate change, as well as children. Duncan Smith becomes the party’s new spokesman on health.

On the first day of its conference, the party also announced it is bringing forward a new Private Member’s Bill on renters’ rights.