'Wednesday Club' claiming success on Noonan property tax
A NEW grouping of six Labour backbenchers, who have held discreet meetings to try and promote the party's polices in Coalition, claim to have influenced the property tax.
The TDs – who call themselves the 'Wednesday Club' – have met with a number of senior ministers around the Budget, including Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore, Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin, Finance Minister Michael Noonan and Social Protection Minister Joan Burton.
One of the group, Dublin South-East TD Kevin Humphreys, admitted the meetings were about maintaining Labour's identity in Coalition.
"We are a separate party and we should be looking at Labour Party policy," Mr Humphreys told the Irish Independent.
It mirrors a similar group in Fine Gael – the so-called five-a-side club of younger TDs. The Labour group are loyal to the party leadership and are all first-time TDs.
Mr Gilmore has given his blessing to the group, which usually meets around Leinster House on Wednesday nights.
As well as Mr Humphreys, it includes Carlow Kilkenny's Ann Phelan, Dublin Mid-West Robert Dowds, Dublin South-West's Eamon Maloney, Anne Ferris from Wicklow, and Michael Conaghan from Dublin South-Central.
They discuss policy and draft policy and position papers. "You can't shape policy from the opposition benches," Mr Humphreys said.
Mr Humphreys said Mr Noonan had taken their suggestions about the property tax on board, and insisted it did not mean they were splitting away on their own.
"You'd miss the access if you were gone from the parliamentary party.''
Social Protection Minister Joan Burton is to meet three of her party's senators who are threatening to vote against Budget welfare cuts when they come before the Upper House this week.
James Heffernan, Denis Landy and John Whelan are concerned about the cuts to child benefit in particular, and are seeking assurances on cuts that affect low income families.
A number of Labour defections could cause a government defeat in the Seanad, which would delay the introduction of the social welfare changes by 90 days.
Jonathan Irwin, who founded the Jack and Jill Foundation with his wife, Independent senator Mary Ann O'Brien, called on the Seanad to reject the cuts.