Dáil row over Keaveney’s replacement on committee
Government will not object to FF nominating Keaveney to a committee - Gilmore
Billy Kelleher: We are now being asked to a bring internal Labour party politics into a committee without debate. Photograph: Alan Betson/Irish Times
There were sharp exchanges in the Dáil between Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore and Fianna Fail health spokesman Billy Kelleher, in a row over the removal of former Labour TD Colm Keaveney from the agriculture committee.
Mr Kelleher highlighted the Labour party changes and said the while there was talking about making parliament more important but “we’re asking parliament to rubber stamp a Labour dispute”.
The row erupted after a Government proposal to change committee membership. Mr Kelleher said “we are now being asked to a bring internal Labour party politics into a committee without debate”.
But Mr Gilmore said the Government would have no objection if Fianna Fáil wanted to nominate him for membership of a committee.
Mr Kelleher said to some heckling: “What we’re proposing here is the removal of a member because he fell out with the Labour Party leadership. It has nothing to do with the make of a committee membership.”
The change involves replacing the former Labour TD by Longford-Westmeath TD Willie Penrose on the agriculture committee.
It emerged last week that Mr Penrose had applied to rejoin the parliamentary party, following his loss of the whip when he voted against the Government over the closure of Mullingar barracks.
Mr Penrose also replaces Cork South-West TD Michael McCarthy on the committee public service oversight and petitions.
Mr Gilmore said Mr Kelleher knew well that members of the committees were nominated by their political parties.
“Every political party does this regularly and there is no debate on it.”
The Tánaiste said: “I have no objection, the Government has no objection if you want to offer Deputy Keaveney membership of that committee or any other committee...but we do reserve the right to make our nominations as every political party does.”
Mr Kelleher said: “I have very good time for Deputy Willie Penrose and I think he would definitely make a very good member of the agriculture committee.
“I’d like to know why Deputy Colm Keaveney is not a member of good standing that cannot remain on the agriculture committee.
“We don’t to send him off to the gulags of Fine Gael. We want to know why Deputy Colm Keaveney is not fit to serve on the agriculture committee.”
Mr Gilmore insisted vehemently that if Fianna Fail or “any of the other opposition groups want to nominate getup Keaveney, the Government will not oppose it. Okay?”
Former Labour minister and Labour member Roisín Shortall however called a vote, which the Government won comfortably.
When the Tánaiste announced that the Dáil would deal exclusively with the budget on Tuesday, starting at 2.30 pm, Sinn Féin party whip Aengus Ó Snodaigh objected and said the House should sit earlier to have leaders’ questions, questions from a Minister and an order of business debate.
Mr Gilmore said previously the budget was on a Wednesday.
“The period of time for debate on Tuesday is longer than in previous years and we’re providing for a full debate the next day.”
He said the budget was what was occupying people’s minds on Tuesday.
He said to Mr Ó Snodaigh: “It doesn’t matter a hoot what’s in the budget, you’re going to oppose it anyway.”