Mr Mathews said he decided to resign and become an Independent TD because of the impossible position the leadership of the party had left him in after losing the party whip over his opposition to the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill, during the summer.
“Primarily, it is the leadership that has put me in this position and the position is not one I’d like to linger in,” he said over being expelled from the parliamentary party.
“I’ve waited since June, it’s quite a long time for people to reflect; it’s enough for me to reflect and to see the geography of where I am”, said Mr Mathews, who joined other Fine Gael rebel TDs and senators to form the Reform Alliance group last month.
Mr Mathews texted the Taoiseach on Wednesday night and delivered a letter to him yesterday morning.
Last night, a spokesperson for the Taoiseach said Mr Kenny had accepted the letter of resignation “with regret”, thanked Mr Mathews for his service, and “wished him all the best for the future.”
Others in Fine Gael were not so complimentary, with one TD laughing the party was “relieved” and questioning why Mr Mathews “didn’t wait until the budget for maximum publicity”.
Another said: “We’d a bit of a George Lee situation here. He thought he’d have the minister for finance’s ear the whole time and Noonan would be seeking his advice. That’s not the way politics works.”
Mr Mathews released a statement at lunchtime yesterday saying: “That brings to a conclusion the Fine Gael Party experience for Peter Mathews TD.
“He looks forward to serving the remainder of the 31st Dáil as an Independent TD, recognising mutual advantages and opportunities for contributing to and sharing ideas etc within a flexible and collegial Reform Alliance of members of both Houses of the Oireachtas.”
Mr Mathews, who joined fellow rebel TDs in the Reform Alliance group last month, claimed Fine Gael had reneged on a deal he had worked out with an unnamed official when he joined the party.
“I joined the party a month before the elections and I specifically, expressly, mentioned that in areas in morals and ethics... that I reserve the right to follow my conscience on that,” he said.
“I said was joining the party as a candidate for election on that basis. It was discussed with senior people in the Mount St office.
“A document was handed to me to read and to sign. I don’t sign blank cheques... and I don’t sign things that I feel there might be difficulty with down the line.
“I pointed out at the time that I would not be signing a blind political loyalty to some areas that might be more core to life and death matters than normal political policy matters.”
Others in the Reform Alliance remain members of Fine Gael despite having been expelled from the parliamentary party.