Sunday 23 October 2016

Government is a ‘Stalinist regime’, says Micheal Martin as rebel TD Colm Keaveney removed from committees

Lyndsey Telford

Published 17/01/2013 | 15:51

The Government has been accused of running a Stalinist regime after removing a rebel Labour TD from a string of Oireachtas committees.

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Colm Keaveney lost the party whip last month after refusing to support reforms to social welfare.

The Labour chairman has been removed from the public accounts, European Union affairs and transport committees.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said Labour in particular was guilty of suppressing dissent.

"I want to register my opposition to what is a Stalinist approach to the parliament here," Mr Martin said.

"Just removing anybody who articulates any dissent from any committee - it is a disgrace and it is wrong."

Sinn Fein is also punishing Meath TD Peader Toibin for failing to tow the party line over the abortion debate.

It removed him from the oversight and petitions committee, which he chaired.

Mr Martin and People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said it was wrong to remove the men from their positions without a full debate.

Mr Boyd Barrett said the Government move contradicted its past pledges for democratic reform.

"If you want to see a genuinely diverse parliament, the idea that as soon as someone disagrees with the Government they are removed from their positions, does not sit well with your promises for a democratic revolution," he said.

But public expenditure minister Brendan Howlin rejected the claims, saying it was normal for the Government to remove a TD's membership without debate.

Meanwhile, despite losing the party whip and being pushed to the Labour sidelines, Galway East TD Mr Keaveney remains party chairman.

Mr Keaveney vowed since voting against savage social welfare cuts introduced in the budget to fight tooth and nail for his position.

Last month, Tanaiste and Labour leader Eamon Gilmore and chief whip Emmet Stagg said the TD's position as chairman was untenable and called for his resignation.

But Mr Keaveney was appointed by Labour members and only they can remove him from his post.

In the Dail, he joins rebels Roisin Shortall, Willie Penrose, Tommy Broughan and Patrick Nulty on the party sidelines.

Mr Keaveney said he had been waiting for the sanction.

"I anticipated that this moment would happen. It gives me more time to reassess a number of priorities that will now get my full focus - and that is my constituency, which has rallied around me," he said.

"It gives me time to support my constituency. Over the course of the immediate future, it gives me ample opportunity and time to fulfil my mandate as chair of the Labour Party."

Mr Keaveney said he would spend his time working for the party.

"I would be concerned that the welfare of the party is under threat and the poll situation with respect to our standing in society. It's not an acceptable summit, in my eyes. If that's the pinnacle of ambition of the Labour Party, it's not mine," he said.

"The Labour Party needs to establish its own democratic welfare. It's important that we look at an earlier conference to resolve these issues.

"The issue here is any undemocratic effort - whether by legal means or legal chicanery - will be fought head-on by me."

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