Wednesday 22 November 2017

Colm Keaveney resigns from Labour Party

Fionnan Sheahan

Fionnan Sheahan

LABOUR TD Colm Keaveney has resigned from the party, ending his turbulent term as party chairman.

In a letter to party members, Mr Keaveney says it is with “deep regret” and a “heavy heart” that he writes to inform them of his decision.

“I can no longer reconcile my political beliefs with the current economic policies being implemented by the Government and in many cases by Labour Party ministers. I believe that Labour is now heading towards disaster. I am not referring to electoral disaster here but rather to one whereby the party's elected representatives effectively abandon the policies of economic justice that have been at the heart of the party since 1912 and do immense damage to the social infrastructure of the country,” he says.

Mr Keaveney has had an acrimonious relationship with the party leadership. He resigned the Labour whip last year when he voted against the Budget.

Labour has lost a string of representatives since it took its biggest electoral success in early 2011.

Former junior health minister Roisin Shortall quit after clashing with Health Minister James Reilly over the designation of primary care centres in his constituency.

Mr Nulty was kicked out of the parliamentary party after voting against the coalition's first budget in December 2011.

He had only been in the Dail six weeks after winning the seat left by the late former finance minister Brian Lenihan.

Nessa Childers MEP quit in April, claiming the party was hurting people.

TDs Tommy Broughan and Willie Penrose also resigned.

Mr Keaveney, who will now serve as an independent TD, launched an attack on Labour veteran and former party leader Ruairi Quinn.

He accused the education minister of ignoring his correspondence over policy issues last week, describing those difficulties as "the straw that broke the camel's back" and led to his decision to resign.

"Many of our colleagues at Cabinet level are enjoying their last hour in the sun," Mr Keaveney said.

"I'm not a number chaser, I'm not going to try and please certain people in Sandymount.

"This is an issue of national importance that we represent the vulnerable people in society."

Mr Quinn, who represents Dublin South-East, including Sandymount, is one of five Labour TDs who serve as senior Government ministers.

Mr Keaveney described his relationship with the Cabinet members as "peculiar", saying they stopped speaking to him after he voted against the budget late last year and lost the party whip.

"There is little or no point being chair of the Labour Party and being ignored when engaging with Labour ministers when you're trying to articulate something that affects ordinary people in society," Mr Keaveney said.

He added that he would not be surprised if Labour leader and Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore, with whom he has had a fraught relationship, celebrates his resignation.

"I'm sure there is probably a cork being popped somewhere in Iveagh House," he said.

The former chairman, who became the second Labour TD to quit the party in the space of a week after Mr Nulty, also insisted there had been no coordination with his fellow Labour rebels.

He said his announcement today may have come as a shock to Mr Nulty, Mr Broughan and Ms Shortall, saying there had been no background discussions among them.

"I haven't as chairperson of the Labour Party made a decision in any way that would undermine the Labour Party," he added.

"I didn't sit down and try to coordinate any dissent."

Text of Colm Keaveney's letter to Labour Party members

Dear ……..,

It is with deep regret that I write to you to inform you of my decision to resign my membership of the Labour Party. Please find below the statement that I have just delivered in Leinster House laying out the reasons for my decision.

It was with a heavy heart that delivered that statement and have thought long and hard about it. I can no longer reconcile my political beliefs with the current economic policies being implemented by the Government and in many cases by Labour Party ministers. I believe that Labour is now heading towards disaster. I am not referring to electoral disaster here but rather to one whereby the party's elected representatives effectively abandon the policies of economic justice that have been at the heart of the party since 1912 and do immense damage to the social infrastructure of the country. The evidence for this lies all around us.

Many senior members of the party seem to believe that inequality is something that must wait to be addressed until after the current crisis has passed rather than seeing that addressing such is an absolute necessity in repairing the damage inflicted during the so-called 'Tiger' years. This current crisis is not simply economic but social and political too and all three need to be addressed. Failure in this regard is a failure of vision. I can no longer partake in any way in what has become a political charade.

I wish you all the very best in the future and thank you for the privilege and honour of having served as Party Chair.

Yours Sincerely,

Colm Keaveney, T.D.

PS The database that I have used in my capacity as Party Chair will now be deleted. However, I will always be happy to engage with you on any issue and you should feel free to contact me.

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