Rebellious Labour TDs form Dáil group

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore has been dealt a fresh blow as a breakaway group of “Real Labour” rebel TDs are set for a bigger role in the Dáil.

After a meeting with the ceann comhairle this week, four TDs who gave up Labour’s whip in anger at the direction the party has taken under Mr Gilmore expect more speaking time to oppose Government policy.

The move by ex-minister Róisín Shortall, Colm Keaveney, Patrick Nulty, and Tommy Broughan is bound to act as a lightening strike focal point for renewed criticism of Mr Gilmore’s leadership.

Though the four rebels cannot form a second technical group within the Dáil alongside the current combination of Independents, they expect much increased speaking time within parliament.

Mr Nulty said the move was necessary in order to step up opposition to the Coalition’s agenda of austerity.

“Our meeting with the ceann comhairle was very positive and helpful,” said Mr Nulty.

“He said that he would try to accommodate us, but there is no mechanism for a formal second technical group in the Dáil.”

Mr Nulty said he did not object if the group was dubbed “Real Labour”, stating: “People can interpret this as they wish, but we are not going to stay quiet when this level of austerity is being forced on to people.

“We are co-operating on this as a group and are determined to make our voices heard.”

At present, the party whips divide up speaking time, but the rebel Labour TDs now expect to be treated as a quasi-bloc within the Dáil and be granted more of a presence by the ceann comhairle.

In presenting their cause to the ceann comhairle, the precedent of the Democratic Left in the 1990s was used.

The move is set to increase pressure on Mr Gilmore, who has seen the rebel four, plus Willie Penrose, walk out on his leadership.

The move came as some TDs within the Labour whip who are concerned about Mr Gilmore’s direction and unpopularity with the electorate pointed to comments by Social Protection Minister Joan Burton on Newstalk this week when she pointedly refused to rule out ambitions to lead the party.

Mr Gilmore has had to back down on a bid to oust Mr Keaveney as party chair despite the Galway East TD voting against welfare cuts in the budget and losing the Labour whip as a result in December.

After Labour ministers launched blistering attacks on Mr Keaveney and described his position as chairman “untenable”, Mr Gilmore suffered a blow when he was forced to admit that the rebel TD could only be removed from his post by the membership at the party’s conference.

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