A long journey, and now it faces another twist in road
Published 15/12/2012 | 05:00
The departure of Colm Keaveney from the Labour parliamentary party has raised questions once more about the 'reverse takeover' by the Democratic Left.
Mr Keaveney alluded to it when he said that both Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore and Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte had been on a "long journey" together. Both were in the Workers Party and left together to help form Democratic Left in 1992.
They joined Labour when Democratic Left was absorbed into the party in 1999. Both went on to complete the "reverse takeover" by becoming leaders of Labour. And both have been united in pouring fire on Mr Keaveney.
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin – recently nicknamed the Dali Lama of Ballinlough by Mr Rabbitte – was keen to get his own back yesterday by dredging up this history.
He accused Mr Rabbitte and his "ilk" of driving out the "last vestiges of old decent Labour".
It is true that three of the five rebels – Willie Penrose, Tommy Broughan and Roisin Shortall – were all elected for the party before Mr Gilmore and Mr Rabbitte. But Mr Keaveney and Patrick Nulty – who quit after last year's Budget – were elected long after the merger.
Mr Martin said the democratic centralist tendencies of the Workers' Party were "alive and well". In plain English, that was the theory that party members could discuss an idea but all had to row in behind the final decision.
So it is too simple to view the Keaveney departure as simply another result of the plotting by former Democratic Left elements.
Most of its TDs are newly elected and there is no support among them for what Mr Keaveney did.
Eric Byrne – a former Democratic Left member himself – summed up their mood by saying the decision was a "betrayal" of the mission to restore the country's economic sovereignty.
So Labour TDs did not have any problem with Mr Rabbitte accusing Mr Keaveney of pirouetting on the plinth of Leinster House.
But with all the complex history in the party, Mr Keaveney and his fellow rebels now have a chance to carve out their own identity across from the Labour backbenches. The wags in Leinster House are already nicknaming their new party "Hard Labour".