Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore has accused Dublin West TD Patrick Nulty and two Labour councillors of “retreating to the comfort of Opposition” after they resigned from the party yesterday.
Mr Nulty cited the announcement that children with special education needs will face a reduction in teaching hours as his primary reason for leaving Labour.
He was expelled from the parliamentary party after voting against the Coalition's first budget in December 2011, just six weeks after winning the byelection brought about by the death of former finance minister Brian Lenihan.
Mr Gilmore said he was not surprised by Mr Nulty’s move, saying the Dublin West deputy was already “effectively an Opposition TD”. Mr Nulty was the only TD elected after the programme for government was formulated, the Tánaiste pointed out.
“What I am proud of are the public representatives of the Labour Party who have the courage to see through the decisions that have to be made in these difficult times in order to get our country to recover,” he said.
Mr Nulty said he had "irreconcilable differences" with senior party figures in Government. He had sent an email to head office on Thursday night to say he was resigning with immediate effect.
“The leadership of the party, and in particular the Cabinet ministers who have sacrificed core social democratic demands for their own personal political ambitions, have brought the entire political system into disrepute,” he said.
“Trust in our political system has been broken. This means there is a need for new ideas and social movements that are accountable to citizens, not powerful interests.”
Mr Nulty said he no longer believed that membership of the party was of any assistance in advancing the political ideas which formed the “cornerstone of his value system”. These ideas were social justice, equality and the creation of full employment with quality work, he said.
Labour returned a record 37 TDs in the February 2011 general election, but those who have subsequently lost the whip are Róisín Shortall, Colm Keaveney, 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 Nulty said it was a coincidence that two Labour councillors in Co Wicklow resigned from the party yesterday. Cllr Tom Fortune from Greystones and Cllr Barry Nevin from Bray both stressed their decision to quit was not related to Mr Nulty's move.
Both Mr Fortune and Mr Nevin said they had lost faith in the party leadership. The pair said they had taken the decision to leave three weeks ago and were convinced they had made the right choice when the cut in teaching hours for pupils with special education needs was announced this week.
“We believe the Labour Party has lost touch with the people they promised to represent. They have reneged on these commitments,” they said.