Politics

Emotions run high as Labour assassins decommission AK-47


Wearing their glummest “this hurts us more than it hurts you” expressions, Alan Kelly’s solicitous assassins walked him out to the microphone, silently surrounding him while he announced his resignation as leader of the Labour Party.

There was no way out for Alan Kelly.

“Once the lads came to me, I think, within seconds I said: ‘Yeah, let’s just work this through.’”

So, “the lads” had come for him. That’s heavy-duty stuff.

The shock resignation on Wednesday night was one of the strangest sign-offs ever witnessed in Leinster House. When deputy Kelly appeared as usual at Leaders’ Questions, nobody suspected it would be his last. Or that there was a reason for the discernibly stricken faces of Duncan Smith and Seán Sherlock sitting directly – and clearly uncomfortably – behind him.

It is why Kelly suddenly seemed on the verge of breaking down in the middle of asking the Taoiseach about the Russian ambassador. There was something about the unexpected pause followed by this deep, shuddering intake and powerful exhalation of breath which made people look up take notice.

The irony of Kelly urging the Government to expel Yury Filatov while he had just been expelled from the leadership of his own party was lost.

But that was all. Clues after the event always seem so obvious. Alan’s final question to the Taoiseach, leader to leader, was about the possible amalgamation of the GAA, the Ladies Gaelic Football Association and the Camogie Association.

If, as he hopes, it happens, “will the Government give them a few bob?” Given all the issues, domestic and international, he could have raised, this was the one he chose to go out on. He even managed to mention his local GAA club (Portroe in Tipperary) where his daughter plays both codes.

Lighthearted banter

Deputy Kelly clearly enjoyed putting the question to Micheál Martin and they had some lighthearted banter, even if an amused Ceann Comhairle wondered about its relevance to the subject of promised legislation.

Another clue after the event. A strange valedictory choice, but then, very little seems straightforward about the manner of Alan Kelly’s departure. Yet.

Did he leave of his own accord or was he pushed? Why did he go? Who did the pushing? Why now?

It was mid-afternoon before word leaked that the politician known as AK-47 had been decommissioned. Labour had managed to keep this news under wraps – no small achievement in the Leinster House gossip sieve, even for a parliamentary party so shrunken in size there aren’t that many people left to spill the beans.

Journalists, blindsided by the development, scrambled for the backstory.

But they weren’t the only ones caught on the hop. “This was a surprise to me,” admitted Alan, who sounded both shocked and upset at what was happening.

Did he leave of his own accord or was he pushed? Why did he go? Who did the pushing? Why now?

And the biggest conundrum of all, the one which had everyone baffled. Was brash Alan “power is a drug” A-47 Kelly really going quietly? Like, really?

Yes, he was, officially confirming his resignation at a hastily convened press conference on the Leinster House plinth in the sympathetic presence of his concerned colleagues who took him out. There, standing broken-hearted in the middle of their Do Not Escape Doughnut, he said he was resigning as leader of the Labour Party because they told him to go.

He didn’t want to go but he “accepted the decision immediately” after the unnamed “lads” arrived to tell him they had lost “collective confidence” in his leadership.

Division bells

As the Dáil’s division bells rang out, they weren’t only tolling for the Wednesday night votes. Kelly was deeply upset. His voice began to waver from the moment he began talking, buckling when he spoke of his lifelong involvement “literally” with Labour.

“Becoming leader of the Labour Party was the best day of my life,” he declared, voice cracking again. The people who ousted him looked so distraught one had to wonder why they got rid of him in such a speedy and clinical fashion.

Throughout his highly emotional speech, Kelly kept referring to his uncomfortable-looking party colleagues as “lads” and to the journalists as “lads”, as if this was some minor little hiccup on the road to oblivion. Sure, he was going for a few pints with his colleagues later on, he revealed.

All we know is that Kelly didn’t want to go but he went when he was politely asked. He feels hard done by and wanted to lead the party into the next election

First round on AK-47. “Here’s your pints, lads, and I’ve put those knives you stabbed me in the back with on the tray as well.”

Alan’s “fantastic” wife, Regina, was there to support him. “She would be fantastic, lads, she’s from Kerry.” He broke down again while talking about his family and his political team. They weren’t present. “They would have been up here with me if this had happened tomorrow,” he ruefully sighed. But the lads didn’t allow their departing leader the small luxury of timing and softening his departure.

All we know is that Kelly didn’t want to go but he went when he was politely asked. He feels hard done by and wanted to lead the party into the next election. He is very sad, but accepts his fate. Why? What did the lads bring him to make him capitulate so easily, particularly when he so patently did not want to go anywhere?

Earlier in the afternoon, the talk in the Dáil was all about the war in Ukraine and rising inflation here.

“Breaking news!” barked Mick Barry, who has a flair for the dramatic, although we’re fairly full up on that particular front at the moment.

“Euro zone inflation: 5.8 per cent.”

No big news there, indicated the Taoiseach. “I said that this morning.”

Magnificent impression

It certainly came as news to the socialist TD for Cork North Central, who declared he’d only found out in the last hour. “Wow! Wow!” marvelled Mick, doing a magnificent impression of president Mary McAleese when she heard Queen Elizabeth saying her few words in Irish at a State banquet in Dublin Castle.

But not so fast with your 5.8 per cent, Mick.

If the Taoiseach wanted news, his colleague Richard Boyd Barrett had a fresh gobbet to impart.

“Yeah, well, what is breaking news as well as that is . . .” the war in Ukraine and the sanctions are likely to produce an additional 4 per cent inflation on top of the current rate. “On top of that, right? So we’re looking at potentially up to 9 per cent inflation now.”

Any more breaking news?

“Hold me beer,” is probably what Alan Kelly wanted to shout as he sat alone in the Dáil chamber listening to Boyd Barrett and Barry trade revelations. He was, after all, nursing some big news of his own.

It took a few hours for a tearful Kelly to confirm his news.

And so it was, with Leinster House lit up in the blue-and-yellow national colours of Ukraine, the county colours of Tipperary, Alan Kelly began caretaking duties until a successor is selected.

“So, lads, Leo will be taking questions from me tomorrow in the Dáil.” No doubt this time the lads will turn out in force to support him.

Our own Harry McGee tweeted: “The whole scene reminded you of Nabokov’s famous story: Invitation to a Beheading.”

And People Before Profit/Solidarity’s Paul Murphy graciously tweeted: “Nice to get some good news in a generally pretty grim situation.”



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