Monday 29 December 2014

FF to expel Crowley after defying Martin over Euro switch

Leader enraged as only MEP joins right-wing group

Published 24/06/2014 | 02:30

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin pictured with Brian Crowley MEP  at his party's Ard Fheis in Killarney recently 
Picture by Don MacMonagle
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin pictured with Brian Crowley MEP at his party's Ard Fheis in Killarney recently Picture by Don MacMonagle

Fianna Fail's only MEP Brian Crowley is set to be expelled from the parliamentary party after defying leader Micheal Martin.

The Ireland South MEP, who polled a record 183,000 first preferences in last month's European Parliament elections, yesterday took the unprecedented step of announcing that he had decided off his own bat to abandon FF's Euro allies.

Mr Crowley said he will be joining a largely right-wing group which includes the British Conservatives and several other parties with strong anti-EU policies.

The FF leader is known to be enraged by the decision, which he had been trying to prevent for over a week. It adds to the continuing threats to Mr Martin after a series of incidents in which TDs and senators have defied his leadership.

The new European Conservative & Reformists group, which Mr Crowley is joining, includes extremist parties like the Alternative for Germany, which wants an end to EU bailouts, like that given to Ireland, and the abolition of the euro.

Others such as the Belgian Flemish National Party and the True Finns from Finland have espoused radical far-right nationalist policies, which FF says seriously conflict with its republican tradition.

Mr Crowley has been a phenomenal vote-getter across five consecutive European elections, and has at times been tipped as a party candidate for the Aras. But he also had a strained relationship with FF HQ, steadfastly resisting vote shares or a division of canvassing territory.

Mr Crowley yesterday said he was leaving the Liberal ALDE grouping to which Fianna Fail had been allied since 2009.

He said he was quitting over the ALDE’s failure to guarantee two jobs for parliament back-up staff, which were in doubt because FF’s number of MEPs fell from three to one after the recent elections.

But a spokesman for party leader Micheal Martin disputed this version, saying Mr Martin had intervened with the Liberal group leader and former Belgian Premier, Guy Verhofstadt, to ensure the jobs would be retained.

“We were assured that whatever was needed would be put in place,” Mr Martin’s spokesman told the Irish Independent.

Mr Martin’s comments were followed by an extraordinarily strong statement issued jointly by the party chairman Brendan Smith and chief whip Sean O Fearghail.

They said they were disappointed by Mr Crowley’s decision as it allied him with groups whose policies |directly contradicted core principles of the Fianna Fail organisation.

“These include the group’s eurosceptic stance and its position on membership of the eurozone. Indeed, a number of the parties in this right-wing grouping stand in direct opposition to Fianna Fail’s Republican ethos and tradition,” the statement read.

The FF statement stressed that the party would remain with the Liberal ALDE alliance in Europe. It also said that Brian Crowley had campaigned and won his seat last month as part of that Liberal alliance.

Well-placed Fianna Fail sources last night said they could not see Mr Crowley being able to continue as a member of the FF parliamentary party and there were also doubts about his overall party membership.

One source noted that the statement was exceptionally strong and referred to “core principles of the Fianna Fail organisation”.

For over a decade Mr Crowley resisted previous efforts by Fianna Fail to align itself with the Liberal Group going back to 2003 and also when the alliance was finally agreed in 2009.

Irish Independent

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