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Tuesday 12 November 2019

Keaveney feels party's wrath after 'damaging' election talk

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

LABOUR Party chairman Colm Keaveney is suffering a backlash from members after sparking speculation about a general election.

There is already talk among TDs about lining up a candidate to beat him to the chairman's position at the next Labour conference.

In emails seen by the Irish Independent, Mr Keaveney got short shrift from colleagues over his handling of criticism of the health cuts.

Mr Keaveney was warned that his call for an urgent meeting of TDs with Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore was "serving no purpose other than damage".

The Galway East TD wrote to Mr Gilmore on Monday saying he had been "contacted by a number of deputies and senators" who wanted a meeting about the cuts.

He did not name names and said he wanted the meeting before the Cabinet met on Tuesday afternoon.

The correspondence was copied to every minister, TD and senator in the party.

Mr Keaveney's call for a meeting was supported by Labour TD Ciara Conway, but a number of other deputies rejected it.

Fellow backbenchers Anne Ferris and Michael McCarthy wrote back saying they felt next week's two-day parliamentary party think-in was a more appropriate forum.

Ms Ferris said she felt the Labour ministers would "convey concerns" to Health Minister Dr James Reilly about the health cuts.

She said the request for a meeting was "far from ideal" and came at "too short notice".

But Labour colleague Ciaran Lynch went even further, saying the request for a meeting was a "bad judgment call".

"The call for such a meeting which I now understand has come to the attention of the media is serving no purpose other than damage and does not in any way serve to strategically respond to what is a most serious issue," he said.

Mr Keaveney replied saying his request for a meeting was based on the wishes of a "number of our parliamentary colleagues that contacted me looking for such a meeting".

"The concern, as I understand it, from our colleagues," he said, "is that if the discussion on this matter is left to our next scheduled PLP meeting, the matter may have been signed off by cabinet prior to consultation with the PLP."

The meeting never happened.

Labour sources say Mr Keaveney's handling of the affair, especially his claim that the party was preparing for a general election ahead of the budget, has caused anger.

The speculation he sparked prompted annoyance among TDs, who complained of being "walked into an election".

"The people would crucify us on their doorsteps," a source said.

Mr Keaveney was elected as chairman of the party by grassroots members earlier this year.

Following this week's controversy, TDs are talking about ensuring he isn't reappointed next year.

Irish Independent

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