Friday 15 December 2017

Mick and Ming threaten legal action in bid to lead Dail group

STORMED OUT: Mick Wallace
STORMED OUT: Mick Wallace
Daniel McConnell

Daniel McConnell

THE Dail's technical group has descended into further farce after two of its most outspoken and controversial members threatened to take legal action in a bid to become its next leaders.

Independent TDs Luke Ming Flanagan and Mick Wallace stormed out of a group meeting on Tuesday after it was decided that Stephen Donnelly and Seamus Healy would become the next leaders when the Dail resumes in September.

The pair are now considering legal action until they get a guarantee that they will get a turn to lead the group.

Mr Wallace told the Sunday Independent: "All we asked for was that everyone in the group gets their fair chance at speaking during the lifetime of the Dail. I have no issue with Donnelly and Healy. The lads are good lads."

But Mr Wallace claimed a number of his colleagues were deliberately attempting to stop him and Mr Flanagan from having their turn to lead.

"Some members don't want us to speak at all. All we wanted was an agreement in principle, and some were not willing to give that. That's what the row was about," he added.

"One member of the group said that if all members spoke, that wouldn't be democracy, it would be communism. I obviously don't agree with that."

It is understood the pair will examine their options under existing standing orders and also are said to be consulting legal advisers.

"If they are not prepared to give that fairness, then we will have to look at all options, including legal, to ensure that fairness is achieved," Mr Wallace said.

And despite a free vote to elect Mr Donnelly and Mr Healy to the posts from September, Mr Flanagan reportedly told the meeting: "That is not going to happen."

But the Sunday Independent has learned there is significant opposition to Mr Wallace taking a leadership role, particularly among hard left politicians such as Joe Higgins and Richard Boyd Barrett and right-wing members Shane Ross, Mr Donnelly and Mattie McGrath.

The technical group has rotated the leadership roles, which allow the holders of the posts to grill Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore at Leaders' Questions each week – the most high-profile event in the Dail.

Mr Flanagan and Mr Wallace, along with Clare Daly and to a lesser extent Joan Collins, have alienated themselves from other elements of the technical group, such as John Halligan and Thomas Pringle.

Members of the technical group are livid at Mr Flanagan and Mr Wallace's court threat.

"They are a disgrace. They are an embarrassment to themselves but I am not prepared to have them up at Leaders' on our behalf, well not as things stand anyway," one disgruntled member of the group told the Sunday Independent.

Relations within the technical group have soured significantly in recent months after some members, including Mr Wallace, Mr Flanagan, Ms Daly and Ms Collins, sought to highlight alleged Garda corruption, especially around the penalty points issue.

Many of the moderate elements were incensed when the Sunday Independent revealed in April that Mr Flanagan himself had points waived after he made representations to a local Garda sergeant in Castlerea, Co Roscommon.

Mr Wallace's controversial business dealings, particularly his company's settlement with the Revenue Commissioners and his conviction for failing to pay pension contributions to his staff, lowered his stock among the group.

Irish Independent

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