Keaveney refuses to step down

Fri, Jan 18, 2013, 00:00

 Labour Party dissident Colm Keaveney has again refused to step down from his position of party chairman, despite growing pressure. 

The party is unlikely to  take any move to oust Mr Keaveney from his position until the next party conference in the autumn.

The Labour Party yesterday removed Mr Keaveney from a number of Oireachtas committees of which he had been a member. In the Dáil, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore moved resolutions to revoke his membership of the Public Accounts, EU Affairs, and Transport Committees.

The decision to remove his membership was expected and came in the wake of Mr Keaveney being expelled from the Labour parliamentary party after voting against the Government’s Budget when the Social Welfare Bill came before the Dáil in December.

This morning, Mr Keaveney again refused to step down from the position voluntarily. "It isn't in the gift of the party leadership to take away the chairmanship of the party, its a gift of the grassroots of the party and Eamon Gilmore would want to be cognisant of the fact that the grassroots of the Labour Party would not stand for any undemocratic conduct of the leadership in respect to the chair of the party in terms of haranguing, harassing or pushing me out of the chairmanship," he said.

Similarly, following a request from Sinn Féin, the Government confirmed yesterday that Meath West TD Peadar Toibin would no longer be chairman of the Oireachtas Oversight and Petitions Committee.

He will be replaced by Padraig Mac Lochlainn, but will still serve on the Environment and British-Irish parliamentary committees. The sanction was in response to Mr Toibin’s refusal to support his party’s stance on abortion legislation.

Yesterday’s move against Mr Keaveney comes ahead of tomorrow’s meeting of the party’s executive board, of which the Galway East TD is chair, and of which party leader Eamon Gilmore is a member. Sources close to Mr Keaveney have suggested the party might try to use a legal or other manoeuvre to remove him from that position.

However, the party spokesman said yesterday there was “no prospect” of anybody ousting Mr Keaveney, and he would remain as chair until the next party conference, when his term of office would conclude.

Conceding the situation was not ideal and was complicated, the spokesman responded to alleged moves by the party leadership. “Nobody in the party has any inclination to turn this into a kangaroo court,” he said.

At the last executive meeting, held before Christmas, the party’s legal adviser Cllr Richard Humphreys, who is also a senior counsel, was asked to look at the party’s constitution and examine the implications of having a chairman who is no longer a member of the parliamentary party. He is expected to present his results tomorrow.

For his part, Mr Keaveney said yesterday he became aware of the Dáil motion to remove his membership of committee but said there was little he could do about it.

“It was a fait accompli. It was something that I expected,” he said.

He said he was anticipating “everything and anything” at tomorrow’s meeting and was prepared for any eventuality. He himself has received strong legal advice, it is understood, that his position as chair of the party is inviolable.

In an interview with the Tuam Herald yesterday, Mr Keaveney accused the party of a “Stalinist witchhunt” and of airbrushing him out of the party’s history.

Party sources described his claims as “outrageous”.

Mr Toibin said yesterday that his removal as chair of the petitions committee was his sanction for not being in attendance in the Dáil for the vote on the Sinn Féin motion that called for giving legal effect to the X case. He said that because the vote was called yesterday, he had to essentially vote in the Dáil for his own removal. He said he accepted the sanction.

In heated exchanges in the Dáil yesterday, the Opposition accused the Government of stifling dissent. Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin portrayed the moves as "Stalinist".

Speaking in the Dáil, he said: “It really illustrates that there is no intention on the Government’s side to reform anything to do with this House, or to change political behaviour or political actions.”

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