Wednesday 13 December 2017

Martin faces backlash as furious TDs vent anger

Daniel McConnell and Niall O'Connor

FIANNA Fail leader Micheal Martin will have to deal with an internal party backlash over the signing of former Labour Party TD Colm Keaveney.

Mr Keaveney joined ranks of Fianna Fail yesterday, bringing the number of TDs up to 20, after being in talks with Mr Martin since the summer.

The signing is a significant boost to Mr Martin, although Fianna Fail sources admit it is a risk, given his past fraught relationship with the Labour hierarchy.

But Fianna Fail local party activists and members of the frontbench were angered by the move.

The Labour Party hit out at their former party chairman with Education Minister Ruairi Quinn branding the defection of Mr Keaveney as "a sign of his own desperation".

Mr Keaveney lost the Labour whip for voting against social welfare cuts in last year's Budget and quit as Labour chairman and a party member last June. Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte described Mr Keaveney joining Fianna Fail as "a match made in heaven".

A number of Mr Martin's frontbench and Fianna Fail councillors in Galway reacted furiously to Mr Keaveney's arrival.

And some senior frontbench figures were deeply unhappy that they knew nothing of the announcement. "It's a bad move," a party TD said. "He is not a team player, he kicked the hell out of us around Mahon and now we are expected to just roll over all happy clappy."

Another Fianna Fail TD said opposing Mr Keaveney's application would have potentially initiated a leadership challenge to Mr Martin.

"Then it becomes about Micheal, and I'm not sure how much appetite there is to go there," the TD said.

Another Fianna Fail TD said: "This is high risk. We were presented with a fait accompli. The plinth was booked before the meeting took place. What loyalty will he have to the party?"

Grassroots members in Galway East were furious, with the chairman admitting there was "rancour" and "dissatisfaction".

'SURPRISE'

Fianna Fail Galway East chairman Eamonn Gilligan told the Irish Independent that Mr Keaveney would have to win over members in the constituency.

Fianna Fail councillor Eamon Kitt said the announcement had "taken me by surprise". "There has been no information whatsoever about this."

Another Galway councillor, who asked not to be named, said he was "furious".

"The cheek of the leadership to show us such contempt and allowing us to learn of this in the media. I'm f***king furious to be honest," he said.

The arrival of Mr Keaveney has led to speculation he will replace Mr Kitt, who is one of the longest-serving TDs, as the party's candidate in Galway East at the next general election.

Irish Independent

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