Friday 19 December 2014

'Gilmore was too tolerant of rebels within Labour party'

Published 04/08/2014 | 02:30

Eamon Gilmore
Eamon Gilmore
Pat Rabbitte at the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship, Quarter-Final, Mayo v Cork in Croke Park, Dublin yesterday. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

Former Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore was far too tolerant of dissident Labour rebels, former minister Pat Rabbitte has said.

Mr Rabbitte, who last month was dumped from Cabinet by new Tanaiste Joan Burton, said Mr Gilmore was mistaken to allow Labour rebels defy the party whip.

"They shouldn't get away with it. It was a mistake by the former leader," he said.

"The former leader was a very tolerant man who tolerated practices by some people that he ought not to have, or that I would not have," Mr Rabbitte added.

Mr Rabbitte was talking about the continued acts of defiance by a number of Labour senators on a number of key issues, which have gone unpunished.

"I don't subscribe to the woolly-headed feeble-minded commentary about why we have a whip system - fulminating about it. You can't run a government without discipline. If you can't deliver your budgetary measures you don't deserve to be in government," he said.

Mr Rabbitte was adamant that any person who decides to defy the party whip must pay the price.

"There has to be discipline, there has to be a whip. If people transgress the whip, it is right that there ought to be a penalty."

Earlier this year, Mr Rabbitte became the 

target of much criticism from members of his own party, including chairman Jack Wall and senators John Whelan, Denis Landy and John Kelly, over the pylons controversy.

Mr Rabbitte spearheaded government plans to upgrade the country's transmission grid, but the choice of routes has been hotly contested.

Asked whether he has changed his mind on the matter, he said: "No, my mind hasn't changed. I haven't shifted in my view. I respect my colleagues' views but I think they are wrong."

Mr Rabbitte asked how Ireland, which was in the pawn-brokers' shop, is expected to put the electricity system underground when the wealthiest countries in Europe put it overhead.

On foot of the controversy, Mr Rabbitte set up an expert panel to supervise the process.

"What I did in response to the considerable public controversy, was to respond to their fears," he said. But he warned that the country cannot afford to delay as it is facing into an energy crisis.

Mr Rabbitte said one of his best achievements in office was preventing the Troika from forcing him 
to sell off the ESB.

"The pressure on us to produce receipts from the disposal of State assets pointed to the energy companies as being the main source of such possibilities. Whether you sell 25pc of Aer Lingus or not doesn't matter a great deal in the scale of things," he added.

Salvaging

Mr Rabbitte (65) said the salvaging of the country's economic viability is his number one achievement.

"It was by no means certain that we wouldn't find ourselves in a second bailout. It was by no means certain the country could have become ungovernable. The crisis was so serious," he said.

Mr Rabbitte said Labour paid the price in the May elections because the people had come to the end of their tether with austerity.

He said some people had unrealistic expectations as to what he, Eamon Gilmore and the party could achieve.

"A lot of people, unthinkingly believed that because they got a new government they would get a new economy and the new Government would have a blank cheque. It wasn't like that."

Irish Independent

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