Tuesday 22 October 2019

Fine Gael engulfed by row as TD says party 'sat on' bullying claims for years

Candidate calls on Taoiseach to probe party's 'mob mentality'

‘Invisible man’: John Deasy, Government envoy to the United States, has been accused of having little presence in his constituency
‘Invisible man’: John Deasy, Government envoy to the United States, has been accused of having little presence in his constituency

Hugh O'Connell and Kevin Doyle

Fine Gael is facing a major row after high-profile TD John Deasy claimed that the party had ignored and "sat on" bullying complaints for years.

The party is refusing to say if it has received and investigated previous bullying allegations in Waterford.

Last night, an unsuccessful local election candidate called for the Taoiseach to launch an investigation into her complaints of a "mob mentality".

A bitter row has broken out between supporters of Mr Deasy and party members in Waterford, who voted in favour of a motion of no-confidence of the sitting TD at a meeting on Monday night.

The motion was tabled by the brother of local senator Paudie Coffey, a former junior minister who has had a long-running rivalry with Mr Deasy.

As supporters of both men traded accusations yesterday Fiona Dowd, an unsuccessful candidate in last month's local elections, last night said she was filing a complaint of bullying and intimidation to the Taoiseach and party chairman Martin Heydon.

Ms Dowd hit out at a "mob mentality" in the party, and claimed she was told by former senator Maurice Cummins to "shut up and stop interrupting" at the stormy constituency meeting on Monday night.

"This isn't the first time this has happened. It has been going on for a long time in Fine Gael," she told the Irish Independent. "This bullying and mob attitude has been festering there for a long time and it has got to stop."

Mr Cummins claimed he had told Ms Dowd to stop after being interrupted by her.

He described that, too, as a "form of bullying" and said he would welcome an investigation by the party.

Mr Deasy had earlier alleged that party headquarters had ignored "continual abuse and bullying for years" and called for the entire local organisation to be stood down.

"The behaviour last night [Monday] is commonplace in Waterford and has been for years," he said. "At the highest level of Fine Gael, warnings have been given for years and ignored."

Mr Deasy told the Irish Independent there was documented evidence "with regard to continual abuse and bullying for years. They have sat on it".

A Fine Gael spokesperson said last night: "Any allegations of bullying will be fully investigated."

They refused to say if allegations had been received in the past and investigated, saying these were "internal matters".

Mr Cummins alleged that Mr Deasy was known as "the invisible man" in Waterford.

"He hasn't attended a meeting in well over three years, he hasn't attended any functions here, with the exception of his secretary in Dungarvan he has no presence. At the doors, people were mentioning it the whole time: 'We have no TD'," he said.

Mr Deasy, who is the Government's envoy to the United States, said in response: "I do my work. I have one of the busiest constituency offices in the country. It's a bit rich having people who couldn't get elected to the Dáil telling me how to do my job."

Mr Coffey sought to dismiss claims that the tabling of the motion by his brother Eoin was linked to his uneasy relationship with Mr Deasy.

Despite being a junior minister, Mr Coffey lost his Dáil seat in the last general election, while Mr Deasy was re-elected.

Fine Gael councillors in Waterford claimed there had been complaints during the elctions from voters about Mr Deasy's absence from the constituency during the local elections.

Mr Deasy has yet to confirm if he is running for re-election.

Irish Independent

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