Alan Kelly "a Boyo" or Bio, extract taken "Village" 30th. May 2015.
Kelly is probably best known as a blow-hard recognised even within his own party as AK47 for his slingshot machismo, the lad who told Mattie McGrath to **** off in the Dáil. He is allegedly the dynamo who may power the Labour Party out of its crisis-resolving martyrdom, as angry tyro and, soon, as leader. Sometimes Alan can appear almost menacing, though in the context of Labour Party burnout, that passes for a positive.
Surprisingly, Kelly, who comes from an old Labour family, has a distinguished academic background and CV. He earned an MPhil from Boston College, and a diploma in leadership and a masters in business studies, he was the founding chair of the Kemmy Branch of Labour in UCC, was Chair of Labour Youth and became an e-business manager for Bord Fáilte before being elected to the Seanad’s agricultural panel in 2007.
He impressed many to become MEP for Ireland South in 2009, beating the truculent if declining Spring dynasty’s Arthur, and then scraped in as TD in Tipperary North in 2011, while doubling Labour’s vote.
Having been a Senator and MEP, Kelly shimmied up the junior ministerial ladder on his first election as TD in 2011 becoming Minister of State for Public and Commuter Transport under Leo Varadkar. His specific brief was the 2009 ‘Smarter Travel’ policy which had clear 2020 targets to reduce climate emissions, congestion and pollution, and to increase public transport and cycling use. However, the Interdepartmental Working Group required to provided biennial reports on progress on the Smarter Travel targets was not set up. Public-transport investment was largely abandoned and Dublin congestion was made worse by the approval of two extra lanes on the M7 Naas to Newbridge. EPA reports show increases in the ratio of diesel cars to petrol increased climate emissions by over 2% in 2013 over 2012 levels, and air pollution now breaches World Health Organisation guidelines, with the measures recommended by the EPA not carried out. For example, Dublin Bus continues to buy polluting vehicles rather that the best available emission-efficient standard.
Kelly’s record in Transport made it clear he was no tree-hugger.
Last year he swept aside all-comers to become deputy leader of the Labour Party winning 51.5% of the vote in a contest with Michael McCarthy, Ciara Conway and Sean Sherlock. He took charge of the Department of the Environment and Local Government (DoECLG).
Kelly’s first act as Minister was to defuse the water crisis. In doing so he deployed formidable guile – making sure to bore his antagonists with repeated obfuscation about ‘timelines’ without any sense of ideology or perspective on the common good: “While the timelines may have been dictated by the Troika, we all accept at this stage that they were simply too ambitious. I fully accept this. While I was not a member of cabinet at the time, it is important that as a Government we acknowledge that errors were made – the timelines, the complex nature of the charging structure and poor communications by Irish Water. Many people are preparing for bills in the region of €800. Nobody will be paying these levels for their water. Let me repeat that, nobody will be paying these levels for their water services”.
Alan Kelly would not be the man to explain the ‘polluter pays’ principle that underpins environmental economics, to recalcitrants.
In the end of course it was resolved that householders will be liable for charges of €160 for single-adult homes and €260 for all other homes, while water conservation grants of €100 a year mean the effective costs will be €60 and €160 respectively and it has recently been announced that no-one will be jailed for payment default. For good and bad Kelly killed the issue, even if tens of thousands of diehards continue to protest the principle at occasional marches in Dublin.
Kelly’s ideology is best summed up in an interview he gave to the Sunday Independent where he noted that Labour was a “party of workers that support people who want to work, people who are unemployed, but want to work’’. He warned that the economic policies of Sinn Féin and the far Left would condemn the unemployed to a lifetime on social welfare. The ideology if it can be called that is entirely compatible with that of Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative party. But the message is delivered pugnaciously by a street-wise 39-year-old with gel in his hair.
Kelly and his party wanted the environment brief to forward their priority policy: social housing. In November 2014, Kelly launched the Government’s Social Housing Strategy: 2020, a six-year strategy intended to deliver over 110,000 social housing tenancies through the provision of 35,000 new social housing units, at a cost of €3.8bn, and to meet the housing needs of some 75,000 households through the housing assistance payment and the rental accommodation schemes. There will be a major acceleration of local authority direct construction and acquisition. A further €300m will be provided by way of public private partnerships. The focus overall is on quantity and little mention is made of the quality of the housing. Moreover, as the Irish Times recently noted, the Minister regurgitates the €3.8bn announcement in the presence of different County Managers so many times that it has become something of a joke.