Peter Fitzpatrick: I felt I was ‘just there to push a button’

Louth TD says he has a problem with abortion and cannot ‘vote in favour of 12 weeks’

Peter Fitzpatrick will stand at the next election as an Independent candidate. Photograph: Inpho

Peter Fitzpatrick will stand at the next election as an Independent candidate. Photograph: Inpho

 

Louth TD Peter Fitzpatrick said during his time as a Fine Gael backbench TD he felt “like I was just there to push a button”.

Mr Fitzpatrick confirmed on Monday he was resigning the Fine Gael whip and will stand at the next election as an Independent candidate.

His resignation reduces Fine Gael’s Dáil strength from 50 to 49 TDs.

Speaking on Tuesday about the reasons for his departure, Mr Fitzpatrick said for the “last 15 months no one was listening to me, I felt isolated, like I was just there to push a button.”

He said when he told party of his plan to leave in July Taoiseach Leo Varadkar had phoned him “from an airport.”

“He told me there had been a poll in Louth. Peter Fitzpatrick’s seat is safe, he asked me to stay. I said ‘no’.” He said Mr Varadkar had known he was unhappy and he had expressed his opinions openly at party meetings.

“When the Taoiseach called me, he said this Government is going to go on for longer than anticipated, maybe a deal has been done between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.”

Mr Fitzpatrick also claimed Fine Gael was more interested in style than substance and said middle class households were not being looked after.

When asked on RTÉ’s Sean O’Rourke programme whether the 8th Amendment had influenced his decision, he replied: “that’s only one thing. I do have a problem with abortion. There’s no way Peter Fitzpatrick is going to vote in favour of 12 weeks.”

Asked whether he would support the Government during votes on the budget Mr Fitzpatrick said he would, once the Government “look after the middle class”.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he was sorry Mr Fitzpatrick had made this decision. “I know that he has been unhappy for some time and was a strong opponent of holding a referendum on the Eighth Amendment,” Mr Varadkar said.

“I spoke to Peter a few weeks ago when he decided not to seek a nomination to contest the next general election as a Fine Gael candidate.

“At the time, he confirmed that he would continue to sit, act and vote as a Fine Gael TD until the end of his mandate. I regret that he has since changed his mind.

“Fine Gael is confident that it will retain its two seats in the Louth constituency. Councillor John McGahon has been selected to run alongside Fergus O’Dowd.”