In the second part of an interview with the Irish Examiner, junior finance minister Brian Hayes said a way to bring the exiled Fine Gael TDs back to the fold would be found.
Five Fine Gael TDs lost the party whip last month after they voted against the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill and have now moved to the Independent benches.
The party’s biggest casualty from the abortion vote fallout was the loss of European Affairs Minister Lucinda Creighton who, with her other colleagues, refused to back the suicide clause in the Bill.
Mr Hayes said: “I’d like to find a way for those people to come back into the parliamentary party. Obviously, a period of time has to occur, and obviously they [the TDs] have to want to do it again. We don’t want to keep losing people, we want to get people back onside. I hope there’s a way back in for all those people who couldn’t find a way to support that bill over the course of the next while, without putting a date or time on it.”
Sources close to Dublin South East TD Lucinda Creighton say she has talked with her expelled colleagues about formulating speaking rights in the Dáil, along with Denis Naughton, who lost the party whip last year.
The others among the exiled TDs who went overboard along with Ms Creighton in July include Wicklow TD Billy Timmins, Dublin South TD Peter Mathews, Dublin North East TD Terence Flanagan, and Galway West TD Brian Walsh. The party also lost Senators Fidelma Healy Eames and Paul Bradford who both voted against the bill in the Seanad.
Many of the expelled TDs privately admit they will continue to support Fine Gael policies, despite being on the opposition benches and being denied access to parliamentary party meetings.
Mr Hayes, who is in charge of the Office of Public Works, signalled that their continued support of government policy after the summer recess would be noted and could help open up an avenue back into the parliamentary party.
“They’re all friends of mine. Billy Timmins is a very close colleague of mine, [and] Lucinda. I know them very well. They support what the Government has to do, they know we have to get the deficit down, they support hard measures that help that but they couldn’t support the Government on this issue.
“I think over a period of time, a way will be found to reintegrate them back into the party and I hope that happens.”