Gormley rejects claims of 'bullying'


Minister for the Environment John Gormley has rejected a claim that the Green Party "bullied" coalition partners Fianna Fáil into passing legislation.

Tipperary South TD Mattie McGrath, who was expelled from the Fianna Fál parliamentary party last night after voting against the Wildlife (Amendment) Bill 2010, said today that pro-Green legislation was being "front-loaded" in order to be passed by the Dáil during the current session.

"When I see our national parliament reduced to debating an issue about stags and breeding bitches for the last number of weeks and this legislation being made a priority...I think it's time to call a halt to it," he said on RTÉ Radio this morning.

Mr McGrath said that a number of recent Bills, including those covering planning and civil partnership, had been pushed forward by the Greens without being properly debated. Mr McGrath said such moves were undemocratic. "They are bullying Fianna Fáil to be honest," he said.

Mr McGrath was also critical of developments within Fianna Fáil and of its leader Brian Cowen. "He (Cowen) hasn't been upfront and fair with us and he hasn't been leading as we expect him to lead," said Mr McGrath.

Mr Gormley rejected Mr McGrath's comments on bullying in a statement this morning. He said the TD was among the Fianna Fáil party members who endorsed the renewed Programme for Government, which included the proposed legislation on banning stag hunting.

Speaking on RTE News at One Mr Gormely said the Wildlife (Amendment) Bill was a "relatively minor piece of legislation" that should not have taken up so much Dáil time. He also claimed he had done as much as he could to address the concerns of Fianna Fáil TDs over the Bill.

"I have done more I believe than any other minister to engage. I've gone to two Fianna Fáil parlimentary parties and spoken at length on all of the issues. I've been engaged on an ongoing basis with the Taoiseach and frankly I find it astounding that the head of our country and myself as Minister for Environment would be wasting time on an issue that i find as a fairly minor matter," he said.

Mr McGrath yesterday became the fifth member of the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party to lose the whip since the last election after he voted against the Government in the final division on the Wildlife (Amendment) Bill 2010.

Labour's Tommy Broughan, a longtime opponent of blood sports, had the party whip removed after absenting himself from the final vote on the measure.

The Bill was passed by 75 votes to 72 in an electronic vote, with Mr McGrath voting with the Opposition and then by 75 to 71 in a walk-through vote in which he abstained.

Another Fianna Fáil TD, Christy O’Sullivan from Cork South West, abstained on an earlier division but voted with the Government on the final stage. His fate will be decided today after a meeting with Government Chief Whip John Curran.

Mr McGrath said again today he intends to vote against the Dog Breeding Establishments Bill next week, despite Mr Gormley agreeing yesterday to amend the legislation in an effort to persuade wavering TDs to back the stag hunting ban.

Six other Fianna Fáil TDs who spoke against the Bill in the Dáil last week voted in favour of it last night.

Labour chief whip Emmet Stagg wrote to Mr Broughan last night, telling him he had lost the party whip as a result of his abstention.