Keaveney resists pressure to step down as Labour Party chairman
After Mr Keaveney voted against the Government, Mr Gilmore released a lenghty statement sending out a strong signal that there would be no easy way back into the parliamentary party. His annoyance at Mr Keaveney’s action was illustrated by the fact that he never referred to the Galway East TD by name in the statement.
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.
Meanwhile, Minister for Communication Pat Rabbitte said a minority of Labour TDs appear more suited to the advocacy of opposition rather than life in the Government.
Mr Rabbitte said now was not the time for “political narcissism” or “selfish acts of departure when the going gets tough”. Labour TDs who voted for the budget were “courageous”, he insisted.
“Any single member of the Labour parliamentary party could have gone pirouetting on the plinth (in front of Leinster House), parading their struggle with their conscience and saying: 'watch me now as I agonise about this decision'.
“Any one of them could have done that. Instead they took the hard decision to bring in the Budget. Nobody wants to make those difficult decisions,” he said.
Mr Rabbitte added that he did not see “any logic” in Mr Keaveney remaining as chairman after leaving the party. “I can’t see any logic in a man walking away from the parliamentary party wanting to cling on as chairman,” he told RTE's Morning Ireland.
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 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," he said. "I wasn’t elected for this and it isn’t what I promised."
The council comprises Mr Kenny, Mr Gilmore, Minister for Finance Michael Noonan and Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin.