'Alienated' Keaveney quits Labour Party

Colm Keaveney has quit as chairman and member of the Labour Party.

'Alienated' Keaveney quits Labour Party

Colm Keaveney has quit as chairman and member of the Labour Party.

The resignation is another blow to the junior Coalition partners who last week lost TD Patrick Nulty.

Mr Keaveney, Galway East TD, had lost the party whip after refusing to support the budget late last year but his position as chairman had caused the party hierarchy a headache.

He said he was opposed to some of the reforms in the new abortion legislation.

“I have found that the more I articulate the views of members, or try to facilitate a discussion of real Labour policy, I am seen as a problem, a difficulty, an inconvenience to those who believe they know more and understand more than the people they represent,” he said.

“Unfortunately I can no longer go along with what is increasingly like a political charade. We promise one thing then do another and blame it on someone else.

“The members must accept what they are given and the leadership will tolerate no dissent.”

Mr Keaveney accused the Coalition of targeting cuts at those least able to defend themselves.

Referring to a U-turn by Education Minister Ruairi Quinn over cuts to special needs and resource hours in schools, Mr Keaveney said it is no way to run a country.

He said he was becoming more alienated the more he tried to promote Labour values.

Mr Keaveney rounded on Labour ministers and said: “Too many at the cabinet table are willing to trade what they held dear for one more hour in the sun.

“Politics can change but only if we have the desire to make it happen. Politicians must be brave and must genuinely believe in something more than their own career,” he said.

Mr Keaveney, who will now serve as an independent TD, launched an attack on Labour veteran and former party leader Mr Quinn.

He accused the education minister of ignoring his correspondence over policy issues last week, describing those difficulties as “the straw that broke the camel’s back” and led to his decision to resign.

“Many of our colleagues at Cabinet level are enjoying their last hour in the sun,” Mr Keaveney said.

“I’m not a number chaser, I’m not going to try and please certain people in Sandymount.

“This is an issue of national importance that we represent the vulnerable people in society.”

Mr Quinn, who represents Dublin South-East, including Sandymount, is one of five Labour TDs who serve as senior Government ministers.

Mr Keaveney described his relationship with the Cabinet members as “peculiar”, saying they stopped speaking to him after he voted against the budget late last year and lost the party whip.

“There is little or no point being chair of the Labour Party and being ignored when engaging with Labour ministers when you’re trying to articulate something that affects ordinary people in society,” Mr Keaveney said.

He added that he would not be surprised if Labour leader and Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore, with whom he has had a fraught relationship, celebrates his resignation.

“I’m sure there is probably a cork being popped somewhere in Iveagh House,” he said.

The former chairman, who became the second Labour TD to quit the party in the space of a week after Mr Nulty, also insisted there had been no coordination with his fellow Labour rebels.

He said his announcement today may have come as a shock to Mr Nulty, Mr Broughan and Ms Shortall, saying there had been no background discussions among them.

“I haven’t as chairperson of the Labour Party made a decision in any way that would undermine the Labour Party,” he added.

“I didn’t sit down and try to coordinate any dissent.”

Labour has lost a string of representatives since it took its biggest electoral success in early 2011.

Former Junior Health Minister Roisin Shortall quit after clashing with Health Minister James Reilly over the designation of primary care centres in his constituency.

Mr Nulty was removed from the parliamentary party after voting against the coalition’s first budget in December 2011.

He had only been in the Dáil six weeks after winning the seat left by the late former Finance Minister Brian Lenihan.

Nessa Childers MEP quit in April, claiming the party was hurting people.

TDs Tommy Broughan and Willie Penrose also resigned.

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