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Tuesday 23 September 2014

Childers: Labour figures bullied me

DANIEL McCONNELL Political Correspondent

Published 28/07/2013 | 05:00

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Nessa Childers

INDEPENDENT MEP Nessa Childers, who resigned from the Labour Party last week, has sensationally claimed that she was subjected to a campaign of "overt bullying" by senior party members.

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INDEPENDENT MEP Nessa Childers, who resigned from the Labour Party last week, has sensationally claimed that she was subjected to a campaign of "overt bullying" by senior party members.

In an exclusive interview with the Sunday Independent, Ms Childers also accused Tanaiste and Labour leader Eamon Gilmore of speaking about her in an "unseemly" fashion and being "very offensive" toward her, both before and since her resignation.

Ms Childers's savage attack on the party comes amid a raft of resignations from Labour in recent weeks.

She warned that a heave against Mr Gilmore was growing more likely all the time.

"If I was Eamon Gilmore, I'd be watching my back. They are rustling in the long grass," she told the Sunday Independent.

Ms Childers denied that her resignation was part of any orchestrated campaign to unsteady Mr Gilmore.

She claimed that she simply no longer supported the party's policies.

Dismissed this weekend by Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte as a mere "pavilion member" of the party, Ms Childers said she was subjected to repeated and sustained bullying by senior Labour Party figures, operating with the knowledge and consent of Mr Gilmore.

"I left because I could no longer agree with the policies but also because I was bullied by senior Labour figures.

"There was overt bullying. I was roared at, shouted at," she said. "It was inappropriate and disturbing. They don't behave the way that normal people do."

Ms Childers said that the trouble started in late 2011 when she refused to support the Government's nomination of former Department of Finance Secretary General Kevin Cardiff to the European Court of Auditors.

She criticised the nomination of Mr Cardiff on the basis that he had been in charge of the department's banking unit when the financial crisis hit.

At the time, the Sunday Independent revealed how Ms Childers had been "gagged" by senior Labour advisers over the Cardiff issue.

But it is now known that complaints of bullying made by Ms Childers were received by the party's general secretary Ita McAuliffe.

Ms Childers said that despite numerous meetings with Mr Gilmore, things didn't improve, rather they just got "worse and worse".

"They tried to interfere with my mandate. The climate of retribution was oppressive. I was never forgiven for voting against Kevin Cardiff. Since then, things were never the same," she said.

In a statement yesterday, a Labour Party spokesman said Ms Childers had not produced any evidence to back up her claim of bullying.

The spokesman said that if such evidence was produced, then it would be fully investigated.

He continued: "An allegation of bullying is the type of allegation that is taken very seriously by the Labour Party.

"Nessa Childers wrote to the general secretary of the Labour Party to express concerns over the way she had been treated around the time of the appointment of an Irish representative to the European Court of Auditors.

"Arising from that correspondence, the general secretary took steps towards initiating the internal party complaints process to look into the matters raised by the MEP, but in the end Ms Childers never availed of the procedure."

He added: "No evidence has been produced to back up allegations of bullying but if such evidence is produced, it will of course be investigated fully."

Ms Childers, who joined the Labour Party in 2008, having previously been a Green Party councillor, said she would have resigned back in 2011 had she known how "bad things have gotten".

She said that her decision to object to Mr Cardiff's nomination led to a bizarre 10-day period, where she had to seek legal advice in order to stop the party from expelling her.

"They tried to gag me. I spent 10 days trying to stop them expelling me from the party.

"It was only when they realised that MEPs are not subject to the party whip that they relented, but it was appalling how I was treated," she said.

Ms Childers said she was appalled at how she had been treated by the party given that "I ran for the party when no one else would".

She concluded: "I am indifferent to the Labour Party now after what has happened. My relationship with them is over."

Ms Childers was also deeply critical of the Government's public squabbling in the past week over proposed cuts in October's Budget. But she is in agreement with Social Welfare Minister Joan Burton that the limits of austerity have been reached in Ireland.

"They are at it again, negotiating the Budget in public, scaring the people unnecessarily. There isn't another €5bn there to take. People can't take any more," she added.

Sunday Independent

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