FF hits back at Rabbitte on Keaveney Hezbollah jibe
COMMUNICATIONS Minister Pat Rabbitte was criticised for claiming former Labour chairman Colm Keaveney "would join Hezbollah" if he felt it would boost his political career.
The extraordinary claim was strongly criticised by Fianna Fail TD Sean O Fearghail, who accused Mr Rabbitte of trying to "belittle" Mr Keaveney.
A number of Labour Party figures have made disparaging remarks this week about Mr Keaveney's shock move to Fianna Fail.
Mr Rabbitte yesterday accused the Galway East TD of political opportunism and claimed that he would be willing to join the Lebanese terrorist group "if he thought it would advance his career".
"There is no terrorism dimension to my remark at all but he would join anything if he thought it would advance his political career," he told RTE's 'The Week in Politics'.
Mr Rabbitte claimed that footage showing Mr Keaveney being unveiled as a Fianna Fail TD on Tuesday would go down as a "great moment" in Irish television.
"Irish television has some great moments. Going back to Gerry Collins and 'don't burst up the party', Pee Flynn and 'The Late Late Show', Noel Dempsey and Dermot Ahern (saying) 'There's no bailout'.
"But if you watch that clip, that's going to join them," he said.
"When Colm Keaveney is saying how warmly welcomed he is into the Fianna Fail party, Micheal Martin can't keep a straight face," Mr Rabbitte added.
But his remark about Hezbollah has sparked a war of words with Mr O Fearghail, who is Fianna Fail's chief whip.
"It was a completely unacceptable thing to say from a man who has himself moved through many forms of political existences," Mr O Fearghail said.
"The comments were way over the top. They were an attempt to belittle and vilify Colm Keaveney."
Mr Keaveney did not respond to a request for comment last night.
Mr Rabbitte has courted controversy in the past for some of his more colourful remarks.
During the 2007 General Election campaign, the then Labour Party leader caused offence by comparing the then Justice Minister Michael McDowell to "a menopausal Paris Hilton", mocking the PD leader's alleged addiction to attention-seeking.
And in 2011, Mr Rabbitte was accused of making sexist remarks about women in Fianna Fail.
He claimed that the placement of women at the forefront of a photograph of the party's frontbench was a "stunt for photographic purposes".
"You might as well wander down Grafton Street and see if you can meet a couple of good-looking women and say, would you ever mind coming up for the photograph, it's only for four weeks," he said.
Fianna Fail senator Averil Power described the comments at the time as an "outrageous slur".