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Sunday 16 December 2018

Behan opts out of independents' link-up with Sinn Fein

Senan Molony Deputy Political Editor

PLANS for the formation of a new group in Dail Eireann have been scuppered after a decision by Wicklow TD Joe Behan.

Mr Behan has opted not to help in making up the seven TDs needed to form a new technical group, which would enable its members to receive special Dail speaking time, and allow them to raise matters on showpiece encounters such as Leaders Questions.

The former Fianna Fail TD, who defected from the party on a point of principle over the withdrawal of automatic medical cards from the over-70s and the programme of 32 education cuts, had been approached last week to lend his weight to such a grouping.

The initiative came from independent TD Finian McGrath (Dublin North Central), who also withdrew his support for the Government over the medical card issue. A technical group could have been formed from a combination of Mr McGrath, Mr Behan, Tony Gregory (Ind, Dublin Central) and the four Sinn Fein TDs.

Mr Behan confirmed to the Irish Independent yesterday that he had decided against joining such a grouping, making the idea stillborn. "I suppose, having decided to adopt an independent stance, I didn't want to suddenly join up with another alliance," he said.

"I told the Taoiseach in my resignation letter that I would take every issue as it came up and decide how to vote as I find it. People have painted me automatically as an opposition deputy, but that isn't necessarily the case.

"I have told Deputy McGrath of my decision and said that it is something I would keep under review. But I haven't joined the opposition, as some people have concluded."

He said the left-wing nature of those who would have made up the rest of the technical group was not a consideration. "I would probably be considered a little left of centre myself."

Mr McGrath said yesterday: "Obviously I am extremely disappointed at Joe's decision. Independents don't lose their independence in a technical group -- it is instead a glorious opportunity to push forward the health and education agenda. I hope that he will reconsider his decision in time."

Mr Behan also confirmed that he had not been sounded out by anyone about the prospect of an early return to Fianna Fail.

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