Gilmore admits only Labour grassroots can remove Keaveney
Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore has conceded only Labour grassroots members can remove rebel TD Colm Keaveney from his position as party chairman, and said the matter would “take its own course”.
Mr Keaveney has defied calls from the party leadership to relinquish his position as chairman since he voted against the Government over contentious budget measures and lost the party whip in December.
Mr Gilmore confirmed Mr Keaveney chaired Labour’s national executive meeting on Saturday, but agreed to leave the room when certain sensitive party matters were being discussed.
“Clearly it wasn’t tenable that you could have discussions about Government business or about the business of the parliamentary party or about political matters when someone who has voted with the Opposition was in the room.
“We did find a way in which that can be dealt with, and that is that he withdraws from the meetings when my report and when political issues are under discussion.”
Mr Gilmore told RTÉ Radio One’s This Week programme that the party’s rules had not anticipated a senior party officer would vote with the Opposition.
Asked if he would table the tenability of the Galway East TD’s position at the next party conference in the autumn, Mr Gilmore said that was a matter for the party’s members.
Elected by delegates
“The chairman of the party is elected by delegates at the conference, and that’s something obviously that will take its own course.”
Mr Keaveney’s term of office will conclude in the autumn.
Mr Keaveney last night said the executive board met for two hours and he was present for all agenda items other than Mr Gilmore’s report on parliamentary business, “which took just under 20 minutes”.
He said this was a “reasonable and sensible solution” which acknowledged that he had lost the whip while also respecting the mandate given to him by party members.
Meanwhile, Mr Gilmore welcomed the imminent return of Willie Penrose to the Labour fold. The Tánaiste said Mr Penrose had never attacked the party since resigning the whip over the closure of an Army barracks in Mullingar and stressed his respect for the former minister of state for housing.
Other TDs who have defected from Labour are Róisín Shortall, Tommy Broughan and Patrick Nulty.
Senator James Heffernan voted against a piece of Government legislation with his opposition to the Social Welfare Bill in the Seanad in December.