Keaveney refuses to quit Labour chair

Rebel TD Colm Keaveney is resisting pressure to resign as chairman of the Labour Party despite being expelled from the parliamentary party on Thursday.




The Galway East Labour TD said: “The graceful thing to do is honour the mandate I was given by the grassroots of the Labour Party.”

He was elected to the position of chair at a conference in April.

The party leader, Eamon Gilmore, said Mr Keaveney’s position as chair was no longer tenable — a view echoed by the party whip, Emmet Stagg, who urged Mr Keaveney to “quit the position forthwith”.

But Mr Keaveney dug his heels in and said the chairmanship “is a gift of the members of the Labour Party and not of the leader”.

On Thursday, he became the fifth TD to join the opposition benches when he voted against the Social Welfare Bill giving effect to budget measures, including a €10 cut to child benefit and a 20% reduction in the respite care grant.

Mr Keaveney yesterday put it up to Mr Gilmore to call a conference to discuss the direction of the party. “I will put myself in front of a conference if Eamon Gilmore believes that we need an early conference to talk about the chair.”

In an interview with Galway Bay FM radio the day after his defection, Mr Keaveney said he wanted to “apologise to the people of my constituency for failing to defend, and the failure to secure the protection of child benefit”.

He said he last spoke to Mr Gilmore on Wednesday, at the parliamentary party meeting, 24 hours before his vote against the bill.

Communications minister Pat Rabbitte said it was not a time for “political narcissism” or “selfish acts of departure when the going gets tough”.

He said Labour TDs who voted for the budget measures were “courageous” but a minority were more suited to the advocacy of opposition rather than life in government.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Mr Rabbitte said: “Any single member of the Labour parliamentary party could have gone pirouetting on the plinth, parading their struggle with their conscience and saying: ‘Watch me now as I agonise about this decision.’

“Any one of them could have done that. Instead they took the hard decision to bring in the budget. Nobody wants to make those difficult decisions.

“I can’t see any logic in a man walking away from the parliamentary party wanting to cling on as chairman.”

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said Mr Gilmore and his Labour colleagues had a “very strong working relationship” with Fine Gael.

Speaking in Brussels, he said: “This is not a party Government, this is a national Government, dealing with national problems.”

He also said he expected Social Welfare Bill next week to pass through the Seanad successfully.

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