Keaveney defection over cuts a major blow to Labour
Labour has suffered a serious blow with the defection of party chairman Colm Keaveney, who voted against the Government’s more contentious budgetary measures, meaning he faces automatic expulsion from the parliamentary party.
He now joins Róisín Shortall, Willie Penrose, Tommy Broughan and Patrick Nulty, all of whom have been similarly expelled.
Tánaiste and Labour leader Eamon Gilmore last night said Mr Keaveney should not continue as party chairman.
“I don’t think it’s tenable for somebody who’s out of the parliamentary Labour party to hold a senior office in the party”, he told RTE news.
Mr Keaveney had earlier told The Irish Times: “I’m chairperson of the Labour Party until the membership decide whether or not I should be chairperson.” He had been voted chairman by party members at their annual conference.
After Mr Keaveney voted against the Government, Mr Gilmore released a statement sending out a strong signal that there would be no easy way back into the parliamentary party.
The dramatic development yesterday afternoon plunged the party into crisis just when the Coalition appeared close to concluding a difficult budget process without a split.
Mr Keaveney voted against the Social Welfare Bill that cut child benefit, reduced the respite care grant and abolished the PRSI exemption. He said he had “deep misgivings” about these aspects of the budget.
He also said he was “appalled” that Labour’s budgetary proposal for a 3 per cent increase in the universal social charge for those earning €100,000 was rejected by Fine Gael. Labour’s Coalition partner was seeking “to become an Irish Tory party”, he claimed.
Mr Keaveney becomes the fifth of the 37 TDs returned for Labour in the general election to lose the party whip since the Government was formed just 21 months ago.
Tánaiste and Labour leader Eamon Gilmore responded last night by sending out a strong signal that there was no way back into the parliamentary party for Mr Keaveney.
In a long statement, Mr Gilmore’s annoyance at Mr Keaveney’s action was illustrated by the fact that the Tánaiste never referred to the Galway East TD by name.
Describing yesterday as a “difficult day”, Mr Gilmore made a pointed reference to Mr Keaveney’s future relationship with the party.
“We are either shaping the solution or we are watching it from across the lobby. And whichever we choose, it is from there we’ll be watching the recovery too,” Mr Gilmore said.
Mr Keaveney was strongly critical of the four-man Economic Management Council which agreed the bulk of the budget.
“The failure I believe emerged from the Economic Management Council.
“They sprung an odious budget on people like me who are new to the Dáil, new to budgets.
“I wasn’t elected for this and it isn’t what I promised,” Mr Keaveney added.
The council comprises Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Mr Gilmore, Minister for Finance Michael Noonan and Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin.