Saturday, December 15, 2012

Keaveney defection: Irish politics gets interesting

On Thursday night, despite days of agonising about the austerity budget amongst backbenchers, only one coalition TD voted against it, and has been expelled from the Labour Parliamentary Party.   But it wasn’t any old backbench TD.  It was Colm Keaveney, Labour Party chair. According to party leader and deputy leader Eamon Gilmore and Pat Rabbitte, being outside the Parliamentary Party is incompatible with being party chairman, and Keaveney should resign from his position.

Left, Colm Keaveney. Right, Labour leader and deputy prime minister Eamon Gilmore.  The Keaveney photo is outside the Dáil Thursday night after he had voted against the Social Welfare Bill. Irish Times correspondent Miriam Lord said he looked shell-shocked. (Credit: Brenda Fitzsimons)
But this is where it gets interesting.
Keaveney was elected by Conference, and is challenging Gilmore to call a special conference to unseat him.  The Irish Times quotes him:

“The graceful thing to do is to honour the mandate I was given by the grassroots of the Labour Party and I said I would honour Labour values. It is a gift of the members of the Labour Party and not of the leader. I will put myself in front of a conference if Eamon Gilmore believes that we need an early conference to talk about the chair. I think we need an early conference on the direction of the Labour Party.”

The specific clause Keaveney voted against seems to have been the reduction in respite care grants.

A selection of tweets during the past few hours:-

> I'm ordinary member who is not normally rebellious but any attempt to force out Colm Keaveney as Chair would lead to members revolt

> After shamelessly lying to the electorate, Pat Rabbitte has some nerve to be abusing and belittling Colm Keaveney over his stance

> Colm Keaveney SHOULD NOT RESIGN Emmet Stag of ALL ppl has a nerve talking about ANYONE embarrassing Labour Party! (Emmet Stag is Labour Party whip, but sorry I don't know his particular misdeeds)

> Absolutely absurd suggestion that Colm Keaveney might not stay on as labour party chairperson. He is democratically elected by the members (this from Patrick Nulty, a left Labour TD who is one of 5 now excluded from the whip)

So ... special conference yes or no?

One thing you can be sure of, Gilmore won't be calling a special conference if he can help it. The question is, will Colm Keaveney? Or will his supporters?

Read: Keaveney “determined” to remain Labour party chairman in, and Row breaks out over Colm Keaveney's future as Labour Party chairman (RTÉ)