Thursday 18 January 2018

Rabbitte hits out at Labour deserters

Pat Rabbitte
Pat Rabbitte

Michael Brennan and Paul Melia

LABOUR Minister Pat Rabbitte has criticised the three politicians who have quit the party this week as "pavilion members".

Dublin-based Labour councillor Cian O'Callaghan has resigned as a member after 14 years, as well as Labour Meath councillor Jenny McHugh who is joining Fianna Fail, and MEP Nessa Childers, who is going to run as an Independent.

But Communications Minister Mr Rabbitte dismissively said he expected candidates to be attracted to Labour and not to be just "pavilion members". This is the term used in golf clubs for members who have access to the clubhouse but not full rights to play on the greens.

"The solidarity of our elected public representatives – with predictable exceptions – is solid," he said.

Since taking office in 2011, Labour has seen five TDs and one senator lose the party whip, as well as losing several of its 132 city and county councillors.

Mr O'Callaghan responded to Mr Rabbitte's comments by pointing out that they had both joined the Labour party on the same day in 1999 from Democratic Left.

"I would respectfully remind him that I am up until today a member for the exact same amount of time that he was," he said.

He said the decision to leave had been on the cards since last year's Budget. "It was the second budget in a row that made income inequality greater.

"There's always choices to be made as to how you make your fiscal consolidation and the choice to hit lower and middle income families twice in a row is unheard of for a centre-left party," he said.

Mr O'Callaghan said he would be interested in a new centre-left political movement without a strict whip system.

But he said he was not aware whether other Labour councillors were also planning to leave ahead of next year's local elections. A Labour spokesman said the departure of Mr O'Callaghan had not been a surprise, given he had voted against the party going into Government two years ago.

Irish Independent

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