Varadkar: Canney has ‘decision to make’ on party

Sean Canney has “a decision to make” over whether he will stay with the Independent Alliance in Government, said the Taoiseach.

The Independent Alliance called off a conference due to be held today as a simmering row between Mr Canney and other members rumbles on.

Mr Canney is understood to be considering whether he will leave the group after a significant rift emerged. He had a private meeting with the Taoiseach earlier this week, leading to speculation that he is trying to cut a deal to support the Government from outside the grouping. The Independent Alliance have given the former OPW minister until the weekend to make up his mind.

A row erupted in the group after it was decided that Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran should remain as Minister for the OPW. Tensions mounted further when Mr Canney moved to vote against the Shane Ross’s Road Traffic Bill in the Dáil on Tuesday and did not appear when it was again voted upon on Wednesday night.

Mr Canney was seen talking to Mr Moran in the Dáil chamber yesterday but it is understood they spoke solely about flood prevention measures and housing and not the disagreement.

The group had arranged to hold a conference in Athlone today to review their performance in Government and to assess what their priorities should be for the remainder of the Dáil term.

The five elected TDs, including Mr Canney, had invited Independent Alliance councillors to the meeting, which has now been called off. The letter said the conference was being held to coincide with the second anniversary of the Alliance entering Government.

Mr Canney has remained tight-lipped over whether he is planning to leave the Alliance. However, his private meeting with Leo Varadkar suggests that he is trying to hammer out a deal with the Taoiseach to remain in Government as an Independent.

Speaking in Belgium, Mr Varadkar moved to play down the private meeting but hinted that he expects Mr Canney to make an announcement soon.

Mr Varadkar said: “The meeting I had with Sean Canney during the week was private. It’s certainly not the first time I met Sean Canney. We would be in touch by phone or by text regularity and of course we meet every couple of weeks. He is, after all, the assistant Government whip.

But it was a private meeting. He has a decision to make. It’s his decision to make and when he does make it, I think it’s really up to him to make that announcement.

Sinn Féin leader Mary-Lou McDonald claimed the spat is simply a consequence of the makeup of the current Government which saw ministerial positions “being handed out like baubles”.

She said: “It just seems to me to be terribly inappropriate for doing your job at a senior or junior level. We don’t have new politics, we have very unstable, old- school patronage parish pump politics I don’t think serves people very well.”

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