Wednesday 21 February 2018

Prendergast not afraid to speak out

Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

PHIL Prendergast's decision to join Labour in 2006 came as a major morale boost to the party.

The former midwife had built a significant support base in South Tipperary where she served as a councillor for the left-wing Workers and Unemployed Action Group.

After missing out on a Dail seat in 2007, Ms Prendergast (left) was successfully elected as one of the party's six senators.

Senior party figures believed she had a bright future in Labour.

The mother of two was elevated to the European Parliament after her predecessor Alan Kelly secured a Dail seat in 2011.

But as her experience at European level grew, so did her willingness to criticise the party's role in the Coalition.

Ms Prendergast strongly criticised the performance of former Department of Finance chief Kevin Cardiff at a Public Accounts Committee hearing in 2012, during which he was scrutinised over a €3.6bn accounting error. She then came out in support of former Labour MEP Nessa Childers after she quit the party in 2012.

Ms Prendergast further irked the party hierarchy after she broke ranks and described James Reilly's position as Health Minister as "untenable" following revelations surrounding the location of primary care centres.

Earlier this year, the MEP found herself facing the humiliating prospect of being beaten for the candidacy in Ireland South by one of her colleagues, Senator John Gilroy.

A bitter war of words ensued but the potential challenge was averted after Mr Gilroy decided to pull out of the race.

Ms Prendergast has been extremely vocal on issues such as pylons and mental health.

But she is now facing the likely prospect of losing her European seat in what will come as a devastating blow for the 54-year-old.

Her decision to publicly call for Eamon Gilmore to be replaced will leave her even more isolated within the party and brings her political future in Labour into serious doubt.

Irish Independent

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