Full text of Joe Behan TD's resignation letter

Fri, Oct 17, 2008, 01:00

This is the full text of TD Joe Behan's resignation letter to Taoiseach Brian Cowen:

A Thaoisigh,

It is with regret that I tender my resignation as a member of the Fianna Fáil Party today. I have served the public as a Fianna Fáil public representative continuously since 1985 and I considered it a great honour to be selected as a Fianna Fáil Dáil candidate in 2006 and elected as a Fianna Fáil TD in 2007.

Since my election as a TD, I have supported the party in every Dáil vote and voted for the various financial resolutions arising from this week's Budget. My vote today in support of the Bank Guarantee Scheme will be my final vote as a Fianna Fáil TD.

I am appalled at the Government's decision to end the principle of universality of medical card provision for people over 70 years of age. I am equally appalled at indications from Government Ministers that the principle of universality of provision of other payments eg, Child Benefit is also under threat.

I regret very much that members of the Parliamentary Party were not consulted in any way in relation to this year's Budget. It is clear that the views of backbench TDs are not taken seriously regarding this and other issues.

I understand the need for party discipline and I have supported the Government line on a number of issues pertaining to my constituency, against my better judgement. They include the Labour Party Private Members Motion on the need for an independent investigation into the tragic deaths of two firemen from Bray and the need for a full time fire service in North Wicklow and the Fine Gael Private Members Motion regarding the provision of ABA Schools for children with autism.

I have yesterday defended the indefensible refusal yet again by the Government to fund the construction of the Rathnew to Arklow section of the N11 which has seen many tragic and fatal accidents in recent years.

I have now regrettably come to the conclusion that enough is enough. I see a number of proposals arising from this week's Budget and Departmental Spending Programmes which will result in pain and distress being inflicted on the most elderly in our society and in the case of increased pupil teacher ratios in our schools - a worsening of the standard of education our pupils will receive.

Put simply, the youngest and the oldest in our society are being asked to pay the price for the present financial and budgetary situation.

This is unacceptable to me but I sincerely believe it is also unacceptable to the vast majority of members and public representatives in Fianna Fáil. It is clear to me that you as Taoiseach and your Cabinet colleagues made choices in the Budget which have resulted in deep concern and upset throughout the nation.

Regrettably, many fine Fianna Fáil public representatives, locally and nationally, will be asked to pay the electoral price for your choices. In coming to my decision, I was particularly conscious of the attempt by the Tánaiste yesterday to warn Parliamentary Party members not to criticise publicly Budget measures in your absence as it would be judged as "disrespectful" to you. I found that warning to be insulting in the extreme. However, mindful of the fact that you are travelling to China next week I wanted to ensure you received this letter today.

I intend to adopt an independent stance on each and every issue which comes before the Dáil from now on. I confirm to you today that I will oppose with every fibre of my being the Government decision to withdraw medical cards from people over 70 yrs. I will also oppose the proposal by the Department of Education to increase class sizes. Regarding all other issues - where I believe the public interest is being served, I will support the Government., where I believe the public interest is not being served, I will oppose.

On a personal level I have enormous respect for your integrity, ability and patriotism. I know you have a heavy burden on your shoulders and my action today does not lighten that burden. But I believe that the first duty of any person is to be true to themselves and hence my decision today.

I wish you well.

Mise le meas,

Joe Behan TD