Labour's rebel chairman refuses to vacate post
Published 20/12/2012 | 05:00
REBEL Labour chairman Colm Keaveney is refusing to back down despite party leader Eamon Gilmore's vow to deal with him in the new year.
Tensions continue to mount in the party as Mr Keaveney refused to vacate his post "as long as there is a pulse in my body".
Mr Gilmore said he will deal with Mr Keaveney's position after the Christmas break – but the TD who last week lost the party whip over Budget cuts remains defiant.
And to cap a torrid week for the party, Labour was forced to deny that Mr Gilmore had told colleagues he would be removing party membership from five rebel TDs.
The Tanaiste is trying to galvanise his troops after a difficult week, which saw the automatic expulsion of Mr Keaveney and Labour senator James Heffernan for voting against social welfare cuts in the Budget.
He told TDs at the parliamentary party meeting that there was still a job to do in Government to restore the country's economic fortunes.
Labour denied that Mr Gilmore told the meeting he would be removing party membership from Mr Keaveney and four other Labour TDs who had lost the party whip.
This was backed up by Labour sources, who confirmed Mr Gilmore had said nothing of the sort.
But after his vow to deal with Mr Keaveney, Mr Gilmore then had to attend an hour-long meeting of Labour's national executive body yesterday chaired by the Galway East TD.
A Labour source said it had been difficult to conduct business at the meeting when it was being chaired by Mr Keaveney, who was "effectively an opposition TD".
The source said the meeting did not get through its full agenda and finished early as a result.
But Mr Keaveney told the Irish Independent that he had not found the meeting difficult at all. And he threw down the gauntlet to Mr Gilmore by pointing out that he could only be removed by holding an early party national conference.
"If the Tanaiste anticipates we'll have a conference in the new year, I would welcome that.
"As long as there is a pulse running through my body, I will not be vacating the chair of the party," he said.
Mr Keaveney said he had got messages of support from fellow Labour TDs and senators.