Howlin says he's up for the job of Labour leader

Published 27/05/2016 | 00:00

Deputy Brendan Howlin.
Deputy Brendan Howlin.

BRENDAN Howlin says there has been an extraordinary reaction local to his election as Labour Party leader.

'It has been much more than when I became a Cabinet Minister,' said Brendan, who over the weekend was referred to as 'a thinking man's Jack Russell'.

'I think the emotional attachment to the Labour Party in Wexford and the town's strong Labour traditions struck a deep chord in the hearts of Wexford people, both here and across the globe,' he said after receiving hundreds of messages of congratulations following his unopposed election as party leader last Friday.

Commenting on the continuing controversy surrounding Alan Kelly's withdrawal from the leadership bid, after failing to win a seconder, Brendan said 'the consensus was that I should be party leader, that I was the best person for the job after the serious defeat suffered by Labour at the elections.'

Asked about reports in the national media that he had threatened to withdraw from the bid if Mr Kelly was seconded, he replied: 'That was clearly not a threat.. the vast majority believed my candidacy was the best thing for us to hit the ground running.'

Asked if he would have withdrawn his name had Mr Kelly been seconded, Mr Howlin said 'there are a lot of ifs and buts, but I didn't have to make that decision.'

Local sources said, however, that Brendan had made it abundantly clear long before the events of last week, that he did not favour a contest for the leadership, and speaking to this newspaper a week ahead of the election said the new leader would be elected by a consensus vote.

Brendan said he would draw on Labour's values and traditions 'to rebuild the party, by restating our position that we protect working men and women and will work for a fair and equal society, one of inclusion and equality. We are doers and don't shout from the outside.'

Brendan said one of his first jobs would be to attract men and women who shared his and Labour's vision to reconnect with the party for the betterment of all.

Prior to his election as leader, Brendan Howlin had twice contested the leadership of the Party, losing out to Ruairi Quinn and Pat Rabbitte.

He replaces Joan Burton, who announced she was stepping down after the disastrous showing in the General Election, which saw the party drop to seven seats.

Brendan said he would be reaching out to former Labour colleagues Roisin Shortall and Tommy Broughan and others about forming a progressive party.

'I have set out my stall. Mine will be a shared leadership. We are 12 parliamentarians, but we are hungry and determined. We have 50 councillors and thousands of supporters.

'I will devote all my energy to not letting them down,' he told a Press conference following his election.

One notable absence was Alan Kelly, although Brendan said he had spoken to him several times since and there were no problems between them.

'Having spoken to Alan I know he's a fully committed member of the team.'

Deputy Jan O'Sullivan came under pressure from local constituency members to second Mr Kelly, but did not do so.

Asked why she would not second his nomination, she said the most important thing was that the right person became leader.

Wexford People

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