Tuesday 20 February 2018

Fine Gael starts 'evidence book' on party rebels

Taoiseach Enda Kenny at the International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect conference at the Burlington Hotel in Dublin. Photo: Collins
Taoiseach Enda Kenny at the International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect conference at the Burlington Hotel in Dublin. Photo: Collins

Fionnan Sheahan and Michael Brennan

FINE Gael is compiling a "book of evidence" on the actions of the party's rebel TDs and senators – particularly on how they vote on legislation.

The information on the dissenters would be used in the event that Fine Gael wants to expel them for continuing to defy party policy.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny last night adopted a hardline approach on the rebels saying last night he did not want to talk about the dissidents.

"I don't want to waste your time or anybody else's time by talking about something that has no impact on those who are unemployed, on those who are in Priory Hall situations and on those who are in mortgage distress," he said.

The rebels were already disciplined for voting against the abortion legislation through the loss of the party whip.

Mr Kenny said the rules in Fine Gael were clear and understood by everybody.

Fine Gael's hierarchy doesn't want to take further action against the dissidents but is monitoring their behaviour, especially how they vote in the Dail and Seanad.

Consistently voting against the Government would be deemed to be grounds for expulsion. "There is no doubt we will be keeping an eye on them," a senior party source said.

Senator Paul Bradford and Senator Fidelma Healy-Eames raised eyebrows through their decision to vote against the Government last month in the emergency Seanad sitting on organ donation.

"There won't be any action taken at this stage. It'd be about building up a book of evidence.

"As long as they are supportive of the Government and keeping their word there'll be no problem," another Fine Gael source said.

Transport Minister Leo Varadkar expressed a similar view when he said that the rebels would have to decide if abortion was a "one-off" issue for them. "But if there's a number of issues they have difficulty with, then that's different and there really can't be a pathway back for them."

Junior Minister Brian Hayes said he hoped the five TDs and two senators who were now out of the Fine Gael parliamentary party for voting against the abortion legislation would eventually be re-admitted.

Fine Gael's deteriorating relationship with its rebel TDs has escalated into a grassroots backlash against the dissidents. Formal complaints to party headquarters demanding further disciplinary action have been made against two of the anti-abortion rebels.

Peter Mathews was embroiled in angry exchanges for well over an hour with local Fine Gael party members at a meeting in south Dublin last week.

Irish Independent

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