Tuesday 16 July 2019

Deasy's incendiary claim just latest twist in long-time split with constituency colleagues

  

Fine Gael's John Deasy
Fine Gael's John Deasy

Hugh O'Connell

For a long time John Deasy was out in the cold with the Fine Gael hierarchy, but now he finds himself sidelined by party members in his own constituency who passed a motion of no-confidence in him on Monday night.

That sparked a day of claim and counter-claim yesterday with supporters of two high-profile party figures in Waterford, Mr Deasy and senator Paudie Coffey, a former junior minister, trading allegations of bullying.

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Mr Deasy's relations with his local organisation have sharply deteriorated in recent months. He claims there has been "continual abuse and bullying for years" in the local party organisation.

The claim is backed by unsuccessful local election candidate Fiona Dowd, who has raised a bullying complaint with the party hierarchy and called for an investigation by Fine Gael HQ.

Former senator Maurice Cummins said he would welcome an investigation, as he too claimed he was subjected to a form of bullying.

These incendiary allegations spell trouble for Fine Gael, given its eagerness to criticise Sinn Féin over its own extensive bullying problems in recent years. The Taoiseach will have to confront the matter head on, and deal with a major rift between Mr Deasy and Mr Coffey.

Mr Deasy has been at odds with Mr Coffey for years, with one party source characterising it as a divide between east and west in Waterford.

In 2016, Mr Coffey failed to hold his Dáil seat, while Mr Deasy did. To compound matters, it was Mr Coffey's brother Eoin who tabled the motion of no-confidence on Monday night. At the same meeting on Monday members claimed Mr Deasy's absence from the constituency it had been raised on the doors during the local election campaign.

"He fought no battle for us," said one councillor. Deasy is the son of the late former agriculture minister Austin Deasy and succeeded his father as a TD for Waterford 17 years ago. Having previously worked as a legislative assistant in the US Senate, Mr Deasy was considered a rising star but in 2004 Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny sacked him from the front bench for smoking in the members' bar in Leinster House just days after the smoking ban was introduced.

Consigned to the backbenches, Mr Deasy became a thorn in Mr Kenny's side. He had hoped things would change when Leo Varadkar, whom he supported, became Taoiseach, but Mr Deasy was overlooked for a ministry.

Those who encountered him after the snub said he was inconsolable. However, he was handed a high-flying role as Government envoy to the United States, working to secure access to E3 visas for undocumented, or illegal, Irish emigrants - a measure Donald Trump has now promised to get over the line.

Irish Independent

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