Crowley 'expelled himself' from party by his actions – FF
FIANNA Fail has insisted that record poll-topping MEP Brian Crowley "effectively expelled himself" as they defended procedures which abruptly ended his parliamentary party membership.
After a meeting of TDs and senators which lasted less than two hours, party chief whip Sean O Fearghail said Mr Crowley had decided without consultation to abandon the party's European Parliament allies in the Liberal grouping.
He said the new European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) grouping which Mr Crowley was joining had ideals which were not in Ireland's interest and conflicted with Fianna Fail's core values.
"As a direct consequence of Brian Crowley's unilateral decision to join the ECR group he has removed himself from the Fianna Fail Parliamentary Party," Mr O Fearghail said.
Mr Crowley polled 180,329 votes on May 23 – an all-time record in any election bar presidential elections and was returned as Fianna Fail's only MEP.
The wheelchair-bound politician was sick in hospital and not present at yesterday's meeting.
At the meeting, all but one member present backed party leader Micheal Martin's motion which said that Mr Crowley's decision and actions meant he had removed himself from the parliamentary party himself.
However, six members of the parliamentary party asked that Mr Crowley be given the chance to address his colleagues about his decision. These were TDs Eamon O Cuiv, John Browne and Michael McGrath and senators Paschal Mooney, Jim Walsh and Mark Daly.
Arguments by some, that three days' notice of motion and a right of reply were required to make the decision valid, were rejected.
Chief whip Mr O Fearghail said the decision was taken under Rule 6.5 of the ruling "Coiriu agus Rialacha" and was perfectly valid.
Party officials also rejected suggestions that Mr Crowley's status as an ordinary Fianna Fail party member might be called into question.
Mr O Fearghail said a higher standard of behaviour was set for elected representatives than for ordinary members.
On Monday, Mr Crowley said he was joining the ECR, which includes the British Conservatives, Ulster Unionist Jim Nicholson, and several ultra-nationalist and right-wing groups from Belgium, Germany and Finland.
Many ECR member parties oppose the continuance of the euro, economic bailouts such as that given Ireland in 2010, and other items like farm spending.
Mr Crowley, who made no secret of his dislike of Fianna Fail's link with the Liberal ALDE grouping, said he was acting in Ireland's best interests and also defending the jobs of two back-up officials at the European Parliament. These had been called into question after Fianna Fail dropped from three to just one MEP following last month's election.
Fianna Fail said guarantees were given on these jobs after Mr Martin intervened with Liberal group leader and former Belgian premier Guy Verhofstadt.
Mr O Fearghail said it was wrong to mix policy issues and personnel matters, which were also important but should be dealt with separately.
Mr Crowley remained in hospital last night and was not available for comment. As an MEP since 1994 he spent years opposing Fianna Fail efforts to link with the Liberal group and made clear his ongoing unhappiness with the alliance.