Conciliatory Taoiseach offers olive branch to four renegade TDs

A CONCILIATORY Taoiseach Brian Cowen has invited four renegade TDs who left his Government in protest at policy decisions to come back to the fold.

He offered the olive branch to the quartet who resigned the whip and said the parliamentary party, which has seen its numbers dwindle, would welcome back their ex-colleagues. “All of our people who are elected Fianna Fáil TDs, we would all like to have them in our parliamentary party. They have resigned the whip in various circumstances, it is open to them to reapply. And the view of the party generally is that we would like to see them readmitted to the party or applying for readmission, whenever they feel it is appropriate, and we would welcome them,” he said.

The four deputies abandoned the whip since Mr Cowen succeeded Bertie Ahern in May 2008.

Wicklow’s Joe Behan became an independent TD after the cuts to the medical card for the over 70s.

Dr Jim McDaid from Donegal north-east left when cervical cancer screening was shelved.

And both Fianna Fáil deputies in Sligo, Jimmy Devins and Eamon Scanlon, resigned after local breast cancer screening services were transferred to Galway.

On the final day of the party’s think-in of Fianna Fáil’s TDs and senators, at the Hodson Bay Hotel in Roscommon, Cork East deputy Ned O’Keeffe said the quartet should be brought back.

Mr Cowen is currently leading a Government by the narrowest margin in the Dáil and would benefit from the backing of the rebels to negotiate the votes on NAMA and cuts in the December budget. He said his support was solid enough to survive.

Disgruntled backbenchers would be listened to, he said, but only in so far as they appreciated unpopular decisions would have to be made.

“It is always good to hear from our colleagues and it is necessary for us to continue a discussion at our own parliamentary party level over the coming weeks... So that we get the best possible collective view as to what is the best way forward.

“That is [in] no way to suggest we would in anyway abdicate our responsibilities to the country at this time. We have to pursue a course of action that is necessary and... those facts don’t change on the ground,” he said. And in his closing comments to the think-in Mr Cowen said he never doubted the capacity of the opposition to “cobble together an alternative”.

He borrowed a catchphrase of US president Barack Obama by asking his party if it could see through the current difficulties? “Yes, we can,” he said.

In response to the Taoiseach’s comments Mr Scanlon said nothing had changed since he resigned the whip and he remained disappointed his and Dr Devins’s departure did not provoke a response from the leadership.

He said he has had no contact with the party since he left, aside from speaking with friends within the organisation.

“I feel it was the wrong decision then and it is still the wrong decision. I have not had a second thought,” Mr Scanlon said.

Similarly Dr McDaid said until the screening service was restored he would not rejoin.

On Monday Mr Cowen appealed for loyalty from his party and conceded he had not got everything right as their leader. Yesterday he said the party as a whole wanted to “improve” its public standing.


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