Kenny critical of TDs hostile to Croke Park agreement
TAOISEACH ENDA Kenny yesterday implicitly criticised eight Fine Gael TDs for publicly challenging the Government’s position on the Croke Park agreement that protects public sector pay rates.
An opinion article signed by the backbench deputies, published in the Irish Examiner, attacked the manner in which pay increments and allowances for public servants were being protected, and questioned in particular their retention for higher-paid employees.
The article put the TDs, all newly elected in the 2011 general election, at odds with their own party leadership and Labour Coalition partners, several of whose TDs accused them of having an anti-public service agenda.
The eight TDs are Seán Conlan, Brendan Griffin, Paul Connaughton, Seán Kyne, Pat Deering, Noel Harrington, Anthony Lawlor and Eoghan Murphy.
They have already clashed with the Taoiseach over holding meetings outside the parliamentary party structure and for co-ordinating on various issues, mostly connected with Croke Park. The group has been dubbed the “Five-a-Side” by party colleagues and one member, Mr Murphy, was previously admonished by Mr Kenny for organising the group.
Yesterday, Mr Kenny said the proper forums for raising those issues were parliamentary party meetings and committees.
Several of the TDs, including Mr Kyne and Mr Deering, stood over the article. Mr Griffin, a Kerry South TD, said he had no regrets and was perfectly entitled to express his view in public.
“The last time I looked this was still a democracy,” he said. “I think that it’s important that we have a debate about this vital issue. I have called for the increments not to be paid for over a year. How can we justify these when we will be asked to stand over decisions in December that have huge impact on people’s lives?”
Another member of the group, who spoke on the basis of anonymity, said the TDs had tried to raise this issue at party meetings but had been rebuffed. “All we have got so far is silence.”
The party leadership was given no forewarning about the article and no contact was made by Mr Kenny’s aides with the eight TDs yesterday. The matter will come up at tomorrow’s weekly meeting of the party’s TDs and Senators.
Chairman Charlie Flanagan said the party had structures to deal with those issues.
There were mixed views from Fine Gael Ministers and TDs. Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar said none should be disciplined. “This is a democracy . . . I certainly don’t think they should be censured or disciplined.”
Minister of State for European Affairs Lucinda Creighton took issue with the method the eight TDs used. “I just find it a bit odd that eight TDs wouldn’t raise the issue directly rather than writing to the editor of a newspaper.”
However, the article raised tension with Labour Party TDs.Galway TD Derek Nolan accused the eight of being involved in a “sustained agenda within the Fine Gael party, [and] against the Fine Gael leadership because the Taoiseach is very much in favour of Croke Park delivering.”