Labour leadership hopefuls set to clarify intentions

Almost 4,000 party members eligible to vote if it is decided that a contest should be held

Labour have begun the process to elect a successor to Joan Burton. But who are the likely candidates and what challenges lie ahead for the party? Pat Leahy reports.


Labour TDs will meet at Leinster House on Tuesday when candidates for the leadership are expected to clarify their intentions.

The leadership is not formally on the agenda for the meeting of the parliamentary party, but it will be discussed informally by TDs returning to the Dáil for its first week of business since the formation of the Government.

Deputy leader Alan Kelly told The Late Late Show on Friday that he hoped to succeed Joan Burton as leader but he has not, so far, managed to persuade any of his colleagues to back him publicly.

Mr Kelly needs another Labour TD to second his nomination, but none so far have agreed to do so. The five remaining Labour TDs – apart from the former minister for the environment and outgoing leader Joan Burton, who has said she will not become involved in the succession race – have discussed the leadership several times and are understood to favour Brendan Howlin as an agreed candidate.

Though he has made no official announcement, Mr Howlin’s colleagues privately believe that he will stand after discussing the matter with family and supporters in Wexford over the weekend.


One source said that Mr Howlin was under extreme pressure to stand from party figures, former TDs and officials, though his family and supporters in Wexford were thought to be less enthusiastic.

Cork TD Seán Sherlock and Limerick TD Jan O’Sullivan last week said they were contemplating contesting the leadership, but both are understood to favour an agreed move to support Mr Howlin.

Nominations are open until next Friday and Labour Party rules require that a candidate must at a minimum have the support of one other TD to enter the contest. With Burton and parliamentary party chairman Willie Penrose saying they will not support any candidate, the pool of possible seconders for Mr Kelly is extremely small.

Some Labour sources have said that if Mr Kelly is determined to run, a TD who did not support his candidacy might second him to facilitate a contest. However, no-one has come forward and sources in the parliamentary party say that the TDs are “holding firm”.

Almost 4,000 party members would be eligible to vote between May 23rd and June 17th if it is decided that a leadership contest should be held.