Fianna Fáil makes hay over Labour’s internal dispute

‘We don’t want to send him off to the Gulag somewhere,’ says Billy Kelleher of Colm Keaveney

Fianna Fáil TD Billy Kelleher

Fianna Fáil TD Billy Kelleher


“It’s quite shameless,” said Fianna Fáil’s Billy Kelleher, with a straight face. He expressed concern and disbelief on behalf of a colleague, though not from his own party.

“We’re asking parliament to rubber stamp a Labour Party dispute,” he intoned.

He was referring to a change in the membership of the agriculture committee.

Former Labour Party TD Colm Keaveney was to be replaced on the agriculture committee by Longford-Westmeath TD Willie Penrose, newly restored to Labour’s parliamentary party after a time in the wilderness because of his opposition to the closure of Mullingar barracks.

Committee membership changes, a fairly regular Dáil occurrence, usually go through without debate and on the nod – but not this one. Fianna Fáil made some political hay.

The Government was proposing the removal of a TD “because he fell out with the Labour Party leadership”.

The deputy was being removed because he had a strong belief “in the view that the Labour Party had broken commitments made to the people”, said Billy. “Tell us why we should vote to remove Deputy Colm Keaveney from the committee.”

“Your concern for the Labour Party is very touching,” said Fine Gael’s Bernard Durkan.

“We’re being asked to bring internal Labour Party politics into a committee without any debate,” said the Fianna Fáil man.

“He’s holding a Labour Party position and he’s not entitled to it,” said Labour chief whip and deputy Government whip Emmett Stagg.

“Do you want to give him a Fianna Fáil position on the committee?” asked the Labour whip.

“We don’t want to send him off to the Gulag somewhere,” said the still concerned Billy.

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said that Kelleher knew well that committee members were nominated by their political parties and when Fianna Fáil did so, a motion went before the House with no debate.

In the end Billy didn’t call a vote. That was left to Labour exile Róisín Shortall.