Labour chairman Keaveney resigns from party
Galway East TD has been in conflict with leadership since he voted against Government on budget
Colm Keaveney speaking to the media outside Leinster House in Dublin today after he quit as chairman and member of the Labour Party. Photograph: Julien Behal/PA Wire
Labour rebel Colm Keaveney resigned from the party this afternoon.
He said “the straw that broke the camel’s back” was his inability to communicate with Labour Cabinet Ministers during the controversy surrounding the provision of resource teachers for children with special needs.
He said he could see no point in continuing as Labour chairman.
He added he was sure “champagne corks were being popped in Iveagh House”, in reference to his strained relationship with Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore.
The Galway East TD had previously defied calls from the party leadership to relinquish his position as Labour chairman since he voted against the Government over contentious budget measures and lost the party whip in December.
His move follows Patrick Nulty’s resignation from the party last week.
He said he was opposed to some of the reforms in the new abortion legislation.
“I have found that the more I articulate the views of members, or try to facilitate a discussion of real Labour policy, I am seen as a problem, a difficulty, an inconvenience to those who believe they know more and understand more than the people they represent,” he said in a statement today.
“Unfortunately I can no longer go along with what is increasingly like a political charade. We promise one thing, then do another, and blame it on someone else. The members must accept what they are given and the leadership will tolerate no dissent,” he said.
“Too many at the Cabinet table are willing to trade what they held dear for one more hour in the sun,” Mr Keaveney said. “Politics can change but only if we have the desire to make it happen. Politicians must be brave and must genuinely believe in something more than their own career.”
Labour returned a record 37 TDs in the February 2011 general election, but those who subsequently lost the whip are Mr Keaveney, Mr Nulty, Róisín Shortall, Tommy Broughan and Willie Penrose, who is expected to return to the fold in the autumn. Senator James Heffernan and MEP Nessa Childers have also defected.
Mr Keaveney has been at odds with his party on the issue of abortion. At the weekend he suggested attempting to force a referendum on the planned legislation under Article 27 of the Constitution, a move which was strongly criticised by party Senator Ivana Bacik.
Last December, 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.
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.
Labour Party chief whip Emmet Stagg said since resigning the whip Mr Keaveney has consistently attacked the party “ thereby betraying the Party members who elected him as chair”.
“Labour Party public representatives around the country with the support of loyal party members will continue with the job that we were elected to do to fix our broken economy, create employment, and improve the livelihoods of those we represent.”
Vice chairman Lorraine Mulligan has been appointed chairman.
Full text of Colm Keaveney’s resignation statement:
It has become popular in recent times to talk of ‘hard decisions’. In my experience there are few decisions worth taking that are not reached without considerable difficulty. Politics is about decisions and taking them is just doing our job. Politics is equally about trust and convictions. It is the trust people place in us, and the courage of our convictions, that should enable us to make decisions.
I have been honoured to serve as Chair of the Labour Party. It is a role that was entrusted to me by the members who make up the organisation. I have always promised to question and debate decisions and to avoid the groupthink that destroyed our country.
I know in recent weeks many members may have been disappointed with my objections to certain provisions in the Protection of Life during Pregnancy bill. I apologise to anyone that feels that way but I hope that all can understand that my concerns are genuine. Labour is a pro-choice party and I never had a difficulty with that until it came to considering the recent legislation. However, I believe it is right to question all legislation in order to ensure that what we deliver is just and workable. I hope that all can appreciate that my approach is honest and made with the best of intentions even if they disagree.