Friday 24 March 2017

Kenny under fire from party over Naughten sacking

DANIEL McCONNELL Chief Reporter

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Health Minister James Reilly are under fire this weekend from many within Fine Gael over the decision to expel Denis Naughten from the party after he voted against the Government last week.

According to many sources within the party, Mr Naughten's "unreasonable" expulsion from the Fine Gael parliamentary party was motivated by his role in last year's heave against the leader.

"Denis Naughten was public enemy number one. He was the man from the West who tried to do Kenny down, and they have kicked him out of the party with relish.

"Why is Kenny bringing the heave up again, he kicked Denis out because he went against him last year," one senior TD said.

But Dr Reilly has been criticised severely for making "unrealistic promises" about the retention of A&E Services at Roscommon Hospital ahead of the general election.

One prominent party member, Waterford TD John Deasy, said many within the party were demanding answers from Dr Reilly.

Speaking to the Sunday Independent yesterday, Mr Deasy said: "The feeling within the party is that Denis broke his pledge to the party, but the party broke its pledge to Denis first. Nobody is defending him voting against the Government but people believe what James Reilly did deserves scrutiny."

Even many Kenny loyalists were furious at Dr Reilly's role in the row and several of those who spoke yesterday said he shouldn't have made the promises ahead of the election when the two Fine Gael seats in Roscommon were secure.

"There was no need for him to make those promises, he knew what was coming, the whole thing is a cock-up," said one TD.

Opponents of Mr Kenny within the party have also expressed their deep anger that Mr Naughten was kicked out the parliamentary party before being given the opportunity to address his fellow TDs.

It has emerged that at a meeting last Thursday with chief whip Paul Kehoe, where he was informed that he was losing the whip, Mr Naughten asked to address his colleagues and explain the dilemma he was in.

Mr Kehoe refused and said that under party rules, once he voted against the Government, the withdrawal of whip was "automatic".

Mr Naughten pointed out that Mr Deasy did not lose the whip in 2004 when he voted against the party when he was justice spokesman.

Also, Justice Minister Alan Shatter previously defied the party whip to support a bill by late deputy Tony Gregory to outlaw hare coursing but was not expelled.

"People were also surprised that for the first time a parliamentarian was arbitrarily taken out of the party," Mr Deasy said yesterday.

Mr Naughten's treatment has also brought the decision of his constituency colleague Frank Feighan into focus, after he voted with the Government.

"There is no doubt Frank may have also lost the whip had he been in Denis's shoes, but, as he's a Kenny-ite, it would have been done in a far more humane and subtle manner," one TD said.

Mr Feighan remained in Dublin on Friday night after receiving numerous threats.

"He is like a pariah in his home area. It's been a rough week," the TD added.

Sunday Independent

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