Friday 22 September 2017

FG tells local branches to leave rebels out in the cold

Hildegarde Naughton
Hildegarde Naughton

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

FINE Gael's shunning of the TDs and senators who voted against the abortion legislation is escalating, as the local party organisations have been told not to afford them any preferential treatment.

But the party rebels are trying to organise into a new group in the Dail to allow them speaking time, after being booted out of the party for voting against the Government.

And Taoiseach Enda Kenny has appointed a new senator from Galway, where two Oireachtas members lost the whip over the abortion legislation.

Fine Gael councillor Hildegarde Naughton has been appointed to fill the vacancy in Seanad Eireann following the resignation of Martin McAleese.

Mr McAleese resigned following the publication of his report into the Magdalene Laundries earlier this year and had already left the Seanad before the abortion debate.

But the move to appoint Cllr Naughton is seen as a direct response by Mr Kenny to Brian Walsh and Senator Fidelma Healy Eames both voting against the legislation.

Mr Kenny threatened those who lost the party whip with not being candidates in the next general election.

Cllr Naughton was a losing candidate in the 2011 general election on a ticket in Galway West with Mr Walsh, Ms Healy Eames and Fine Gael TD Sean Kyne.

But Cllr Naughton's appointment to the Seanad paves the way for her to stand for the Dail again at the next election.

'PROFILE'

"The organisation will be getting behind Hildegarde now and this will give her more profile," a party source said.

Cllr Naughton, a primary teacher, is a member of Galway City Council since 2009, and was Mayor of Galway in 2011-2012.

Mr Kenny personally endorsed her track record.

"Throughout her political career to date, Hildegarde Naughton has been a very capable and committed representative of the people of Galway. She will be a very constructive and successful member of the Seanad," he said.

Fine Gael lost five TDs, including Lucinda Creighton, and two senators over the abortion legislation.

Party headquarters wrote to local party organisations in the constituencies of the rebels, setting out the rules of how they should be treated.

Fine Gael TDs and senators outside of the party whip are not allowed to use the party logo, nor to be referred to as Fine Gael Oireachtas members, nor to be invited to sit at the top table at meetings.

Meanwhile, party TD Billy Timmins, one of the seven who voted against the legislation, is applying to be allowed to form a new group in the Dail.

Mr Timmins plans to get seven TDs signed up for the grouping. He has formally placed the request on the record of the Dail.

"I hope to have standing orders amended to address it so I and others can speak on behalf of the people we were elected to represent," he said.

There are now six TDs outside the party whip – Mr Timmins, Ms Creighton, Mr Walsh, Peter Mathews, Terence Flanagan and Denis Naughten.

Irish Independent

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