Alan Kelly’s name is the only guaranteed option set to appear on the Labour Party’s leadership ballot when nominations officially open tomorrow.
A number of sources close to the Tipperary TD have confirmed that his name will be sent forward for nomination as the race to succeed Brendan Howlin kicks off in earnest.
The party’s central executive will meet tomorrow to finalise the terms of the leadership election, which is set to last a minimum of six weeks.
Several hustings are set to take place across the country in which prospective candidates will set forward their reasoning as to why they should be the ones to succeed Wexford TD Mr Howlin.
Mr Howlin announced his resignation as leader last Wednesday after a disappointing election which saw the party’s manifesto fail to gain traction with the electorate, despite the majority of voters opting for left-leaning candidates.
In the end, Labour returned just six TDs to the Dail despite Mr Howlin’s repeated proclamations that the party was hoping to double its figures to 14.
The final poll saw long-standing senior TDs Joan Burton and Jan O’Sullivan lose their seats, while Brendan Ryan (who was replaced in his constituency by new representative Duncan Smith) and Willie Penrose declined to run again.
The three TDs known to be interested in the top job are Mr Kelly and fellow TDs Aodhan O Riordain and Ged Nash.
All three declined to comment on the coming contest or as to whether or not they would be allowing their own nomination.
However, only one of the latter two is expected to be nominated due to the pair’s perceived closeness within the party.
“Alan will definitely be there, but there is only likely to be one other with Aodhan and Ged set to take the weekend to decide on their next move,” one source said.
Sean Sherlock had also been expected to be in the frame but ruled himself out in the wake of Mr Howlin standing down.
When the election finally happens roughly 4,000 Labour members across the country are expected to cast their vote.
Mr Howlin took over unopposed from Ms Burton as leader following Labour’s dismal performance at the 2016 general election, which saw the party’s seat total decimated from 37 to just seven, with Mr Penrose’s last gasp election in Longford Westmeath maintaining his party’s speaking rights in the Dáil by the bare minimum.
Mr Kelly, who has been a Dáil representative for Tipperary since 2011, had made clear his desire to contest the leadership at that time but failed to secure a nomination from within the party’s roster of TDs.
Labour councillor for Dublin City Council Dermot Lacey said unequivocally that Mr Kelly has his full support.
“I made it clear four years ago that I would have voted for Alan, and I’m happy to say that I will be supporting Alan this time around,” Mr Lacey said.
“My own view is that Alan is a strong, robust guy who is rooted in the very best of Labour’s traditions, and I think he is the right person for the job,” he said.
Had Mr Kelly taken over the role in 2016, Mr Lacey said he “would have asserted Labour’s place and role in Irish history, whereas I think Brendan was, for good reasons, asserting his role as a parliamentarian, something which he is very good at”.
“I think Alan would have been better at carving out our distinctive role, and I think he would do that now, and that’s why I’m unashamedly supporting him this time,” he said.
“No matter what happens we need a good contest,” another party source said.