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Fine Gael leadership asked to investigate ‘entirely irregular’ motion against ex-TD

Senior party member indicated action and remedy to party leader in wake of no-confidence motion in former Waterford deputy John Deasy

A Fine Gael TD and party vice-president told then party leader Leo Varadkar the circumstances surrounding a motion of no-confidence in former Waterford deputy John Deasy five years ago should be investigated and, subject to the findings, the organisation should apologise to him, his staff and supporters.

John Paul Phelan, a TD for Carlow-Kilkenny and a member of Fine Gael’s executive council, wrote to Mr Varadkar and John Carroll, party secretary general, last October describing the successful motion against Mr Deasy in June 2019 as “entirely irregular”.

Mr Phelan said “approximately 20 to 25 emails and letters” alleging “bullying and intimidation” in Waterford that were sent to Mr Varadkar, Mr Carroll and Simon Coveney, when he was the deputy leader, had gone unanswered.

“The idea that a cabal of disgruntled members can undermine an elected reps (sic) entire career and also bring reams of unfavourable local media coverage down on the party is unacceptable and frankly wildly outside the existing rules of the party,” noted Mr Phelan in the letter dated October 10th, 2023. A former junior minister at the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, he said the next ardfheis needed to amend party rules governing motions of no-confidence in TDs, senators, MEPs and local councillors.


The motion of no-confidence in Mr Deasy, who was a sitting TD and the government’s envoy to the US Congress at the time, was proposed by Eoin Coffey, a brother of then senator Paudie Coffey, at a meeting in Dungarvan in June 2019. There was no advance notice of the motion and some members complained that their objections to it were “shouted down”. Mr Deasy, who had informed Mr Varadkar the previous March that he would not be contesting the next general election in 2020, was not present.

After the motion of no confidence in him was passed, Mr Deasy made a complaint of bullying to Fine Gael headquarters. In September 2019, then secretary general Tom Curran told a meeting in Dungarvan the allegations had been investigated and no evidence was found to support them.

Seven members whose claims in writing were not responded to have withdrawn from active participation in the party.

Waterford’s selection convention for Fine Gael’s next Dáil elections takes place tonight in the city’s Granville Hotel. The two candidates seeking selection are Senator John Cummins, who failed to take Mr Deasy’s seat in 2020, and Cllr Declan Doocey.

The 2019 meeting had been called to discuss Fine Gael’s poor local election results in Waterford the previous month. Mr Phelan had been the national director of those elections.

“I’ve nothing to say on the Waterford issue,” said Mr Phelan when contacted by The Irish Times.

This month’s Fine Gael ardfheis approved a resolution tabled by the executive council to change the rules for motions of no confidence in its elected members, restricting them to “exceptional circumstances” and requiring “appropriate notice”. Under the new rules, only a constituency executive will be permitted to move such a motion.

Asked if the rule-change arose from the motion relating to Mr Deasy, a Fine Gael spokesman replied: “Following the 2020 general election, there was a review of a number of meetings held in advance of the same election. It was established there were no procedures for dealing with motions of no confidence or similar tabled in public representatives. Subsequently, a motion was proposed at this month’s Fine Gael ardfheis and agreed by it that no-confidence motions could only be moved by a constituency executive and only in line with procedures set down by the Fine Gael executive council.

“Those procedures shall have regard to the fact that such motions should only be moved in exceptional circumstances and shall set down, amongst other matters, the requirements in terms of moving such a motion, the threshold for the passage of such a motion [and] the appropriate notice.”

Mr Deasy, who was a Waterford TD for 18 years, declined to comment.

Justine McCarthy

Justine McCarthy

Justine McCarthy is an Irish Times contributor, writing a weekly opinion column