Thursday 5 December 2019

Labour will move rebel Keaveney to 'opposition' benches

Michael Brennan Deputy Political Editor

LABOUR is going to move its rebel chairman Colm Keaveney (pictured) on to the "opposition" benches as his row with Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore continues.

Mr Keaveney will be forced to swap seats with Labour TD Eamonn Maloney when the Dail returns tomorrow, putting him officially sitting on the margins of the parliamentary party.

It comes as the Galway East TD continues to pose problems for Mr Gilmore, with his call for the annual party conference to be brought forward from October to April. He wants a public showdown with Mr Gilmore so that members can vote on whether to re-elect him or remove him as party chairman.

Mr Keaveney said the change of seat would not affect his ability to hold the Government to account for its pre-election promises.

"I still have the honour of representing Galway East and it's immaterial to me which seat I'm put in," he said.

Due to the limited space in the Dail chamber, Mr Keaveney will be still sitting in the back row of the Labour section.

He will be part of a "rump" of five Labour TDs who have lost the party whip, with former Junior Minister Roisin Shortall sitting beside him and Willie Penrose, Patrick Nulty and Tommy Broughan further along to his left.

The Labour leadership is currently taking legal advice about its options for removing Mr Keaveney as party chairman following his decision to vote against the social welfare cuts in the Budget. But it is understood that Mr Keaveney has also taken his own legal advice.

He warned yesterday that any attempt to remove him "through legal means or through a questionable internal process" before the party conference would lack the stamp of democratic fairness and respect for members.

And Mr Keaveney said he would be highlighting the HSE's plans to close a facility for 17 people with mental health problems in his native Tuam.

A Labour spokesman said there were currently no plans to heed Mr Keaveney's call for the party conference to be brought forward from October to April. He said this was a decision for the Labour National Executive, which is due to meet in Dublin on Saturday. But in a further headache for the leadership, it is Mr Keaveney who chairs the meetings of the Labour National Executive, due to his position as party chairman.

There could be a further re-arranging of seats in the Dail in the near future. Former Labour Junior Minister Willie Penrose has applied to rejoin the Labour parliamentary party, having lost the party whip after opposing the closure of Mullingar barracks. If his application is approved, as expected, he would be moved to put him sitting alongside Labour backbenchers.

Irish Independent

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