Victory for Alan Kelly in Labour leadership contest as Aodhán Ó Ríordáin concedes

Two TDs were vying replace Brendan Howlin after party dropped to six seats in General Election

Tipperary TD Alan Kelly is the new leader of the Labour Party after beating off competition from his party rival Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, who conceded on Friday night.

Mr Kelly will become the 13th leader of the party.

Close to 2,000 party members voted in the election following a campaign which lasted almost six weeks.

According to the party, the total valid poll was 1,915, with one spoiled vote. Mr Kelly secured 1,047 and Mr Ó Ríordáin 868.


Speaking after his defeat, Mr Ó Ríordáin congratulated Mr Kelly on his election as leader of the party.

“I want to congratulate his family, who I know are very proud of him. I know that Labour’s values are safe in Alan’s hands. I want to thank Brendan Howlin for his leadership of the party over the last four years.”

He said he enjoyed the campaign immensely and called on the party to unite. “We have a lot of work to help lead Ireland through our currently difficulties and through the recovery.”

Mr Ó Ríordáin tweeted at 9.48pm: “I’ve just called @alankellylabour to congratulate him on his election as leader of the @labour party.

“I can’t thank my campaign team & my family enough for their support over the last few weeks.

“Time now to unite and work together for our great party and our country.”

Mr Kelly had secured 58 per cent of the vote when three quarters of the ballots were counted last night.

The count was carried out by senior counsel Conor Power with a live link to the two campaign teams because of coronavirus restrictions.

Former leader Brendan Howlin stepped down after the general election in February when his party won just six Dáil seats.

When he announced his candidacy in February, Mr Kelly said he wanted to restore Labour to the “leadership of the left”. “This party was founded to advance the interests of workers,” he said. “Now it is time to go back to basics.” He said the party needs to move past apologising for policies implemented in the past and that “too many doors were closed to us, too many minds were closed to us” in recent years.

Mr Kelly will now be tasked with deciding whether Labour should enter Government formation talks.

The party’s position that it should go into opposition was reiterated at a private meeting of Labour TDs earlier this week.

The six party TDs held a teleconference meeting during which they discussed the coronavirus crisis and government formation. Those on the call were current leader Brendan Howlin, leadership contenders Alan Kelly and Aodhán Ó Ríordáin as well as TDs Ged Nash, Seán Sherlock and Duncan Smith.

One source said there was “no dissension” from the position that Labour should go into opposition while another said Mr Kelly expressed a view that was in line with the “thrust” of the general attitude of the meeting. But supporters of Mr Kelly are split on whether the party should enter government with Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael in the weeks ahead.

Duncan Smith, the recently elected Dublin Fingal TD who helped launch Mr Kelly’s leadership campaign, said he believes Labour should go into opposition. His view contradicts that of Cork East TD Seán Sherlock, another supporter of Mr Kelly, who said Labour should consider entering government.

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times