Brendan Howlin, pictured at the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland in Dublin at a press conference after he was elected as Labour Party

Former government minister Brendan Howlin is the new leader of the Labour Party in Ireland.

His unopposed election was a bitter blow to the main contender, Alan Kelly, who highlighted his ambition on "The Late, Late Show" six days earlier but, in a major snub by his parliamentary party colleagues, he couldn’t find anybody to second him.

Kelly, 40, who was the party’s deputy leader, didn’t even show at the press conference to announce Howlin’s selection in succession to Joan Burton, who resigned following the party’s disastrous general election result.

Howlin, 60, didn’t enter the leadership battle when others considered putting their names forward. He agreed to his election when, finally, the only contender, Kelly, couldn’t get a seconder.

Howlin, who was a high-profile minister for public expenditure and reform in the last government, denied that he is a “reluctant” Labour leader but said he is committed to rebuilding the party. The party only has seven TDs compared with 37 elected in 2011.

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After he was announced as leader, Howlin said he hoped Kelly would be "a very integral part of advancing the Labour Party."

Kelly, nicknamed “AK-47” because of his brash style, is popular among the party grassroots, but his parliamentary party colleagues were openly hostile to his bid to become leader.

He said the “wishes and entitlement” of Labour Party members were denied by the lack of a contest, but added that he wished Howlin well.

After Kelly’s bruising humiliation, he tweeted a photo from a pub in his constituency showing seven pint glasses with the first one full of Guinness and diminishing amounts in the others until the last one which was empty. He tweeted: “The seven stages of leadership!”

Sources within Labour said Kelly has no intention of leaving the party and the tweet was not designed to signal dissatisfaction.