Labour TD Michael McNamara, left, with Labour Senator Ivana Bacik and former Labour leader Eamon Gilmore
In Village magazine, Michael McNamara, a Labour TD, writes:
“When Irish Water was established, it was deliberately placed outside the parliamentary questions process by two parties in government, including my own, that had spent years criticising the fact that the provision of vital health services was not susceptible to parliamentary questions.
The minister who took the Irish Water legislation through all stages of the Dáil in one afternoon – despite a clear commitment in the programme for government that there would be two weeks between all stages – has had a change of mind since he lost ministerial office.
What is it about the advice of civil servants that is so enchanting that their commitment to keeping information from the public they serve is always followed by their political “masters” who subsequently go into opposition and complain that they cannot get information from government on behalf of their constituents?
One of the first things this Government did after extending the Freedom of Information system was to close it down again when it came to the Refugee Appeals Tribunal – one of the shadiest areas of our justice system and it did so by ramming a motion through the Dáil with a limited debate on the last sitting day before a break.
Yes, this government brought the economy back from the edge which was one of its main tasks. But it failed to address the underlying problems and causes of what went so badly wrong. This government could have tackled corporate culture here, changed how this country is governed and how those who provide public services are held accountable to the public.
Instead, it spent too long just revelling in being in government. To date, it has comprehensively failed to carry out the task it set itself and for which it received a mandate – to reform how the business of government is done.”
Former Labour Party Chairman and Galway East TD Colm Keaveney went on the Sean Moncrieff show on Today FM this afternoon to discuss his life in politics.
Mr Keaveney joined Fianna Fail in December 2013 six months after leaving the Labour Party amid unease with the leadership of Eamon Gilmore and the direction of the party.
The host began with the dark side.
Sean Moncrieff: “How dark is politics?”
Colm Keaveney: “It can be pretty nasty, it can be pretty rough, I mean when you pull the curtain back and you look at the sort of mechanics around it, you see what John Perry’s going through today, now John Perry’s not alone, I mean 30% of Oireachtas TDs and Senators have family spouses. You have to ask yourself the question, why is John Perry being singled out this way, obviously he is falling out of favour with the leadership of Fine Gael, the manifestations of, of that sort of dynamic, they just blow you out of the water. I’ve had very, very challenging situations in politics, when I spoke to Eamon Gilmore about voting against, you know, a budget involving cuts in child benefits, you know, It was a pretty rough discussion, it was pretty rough, I’m delighted I made the decision, but…”
Moncrieff: “Now, what does ‘pretty rough’ mean, for two politicians, is it ‘you, ye bollox, you’re going to vote for us,’ is that what we’re talking about?”
Keaveney: “You know, from the outset it has been verified, for one reason or another, you know senior politicians try to accentuate their own authority by singling people out to come down heavy on them, to look as if they’re big strong Stalinist ‘I can take them on’, and from the outset in politics my election in 2011 I was singled out as that person within the Labour Party, despite my commitment to what I thought was fairness, equality, represent my constituents and to give people a chance who were on the periphery to get on in life, and I fought tooth and nail for that, and unfortunately I had to vote against a budget and the consequences of that can be heavy on the family, yeah, and on the person.”
Moncrieff: “And, when you’re in the room with Gilmore, and Gilmore is saying ‘Vote or else’, what is ‘or else’?”
Keaveney: “There was a lot of eyeballing and ‘are you with or agin me, because when you walk out that door, life is going to change for you.’ Your family, everybody, you know. The media, you know. Because by the time I got home I had photographs, my children were being photographed in the school playground, they were writing stories about my wife, they write stories about… so, yeah, the full rigour of the pro-government media will come down and wallop you.”
Moncrieff: “Was it implied to you that that would be orchestrated?”
Keaveney: “By the time I got into the car onto the M50 it was in process. I was told going into that meeting ‘you’re going to get your neck measured, you’re going to walk the, em, you’re going to walk the plank here, when you’re pushed off that plank your life is going to change’.”
Moncrieff: “‘You’re going to get your neck measured,’ was that the phrase used?”
Moncrieff: “Jesus, that’s a scary phrase.”
Keaveney: “It is a scary phrase, but I’m only giving you the soft stuff. I mean, bullying is endemic in many employments and, you know, politics is no different, it’s a a rough trade, em, the veneer of politics, the bit you see, the cuddly parts of it, are constructed, really what happens behind the scene is that you have an authoritarian system of whipping people to do what they don’t want to do telling people that there will be consequences for you, your constituents if you don’t draw the line, there’s no space for dissent, critical analysis, looking at the fairness or the impact, at the consequences, the human impact, the consequences of decisions. There’s no time for that in politics, you’re either for or against, and when you’re against, you’re a threat.”
Moncrieff: “But didn’t you always know that? When you got into politics, didn’t you always know that?”
Keaveney:“Again, I’m blessed to be a politician, I wake up every morning, I pinch myself, going, I’m blessed to be given that jersey, I’m not going to dishonour my constituency, they sent me in to articulate, to represent the views of vulnerable people, a vast number of people in 2011 were going through incredibly difficult times, I was knocking on doors on minus 10, minus 15 in that cold February and i was coming across houses that were knocking down their own staircases to feed the fire so it was a rough time and I have a very vivid memory of the difficulties that people had and I was going to remain faithful to articulating that.“
Moncrieff: “How come you were the only one, Colm.”
Keaveney: “I’m not going to say that I was the only one but I was the only one that made the choice, I made a deliberate choice.”
Moncrieff: “But why didn’t others make the choice, does that mean that every other politician…”
Keaveney: “Because political parties by their nature are about climbing, and climbing to the top and those people who have co-operated with the austerity and co-operated with the, the convenient loss of memory around commitments given to child benefit, third level fees, the respite grant, cuts to mental health, they’re all ministers today.”
Alan Kellyon a visit to Gardiner Street, Dublin today
Further to Anne Ferris’ expulsion from the Labour party…
“The Labour Party is a very united party, we’re very clear on what we have achieved and very clear on why we’re going into the future, and as deputy leader, I will drive that.
I spoke to Anne. Obviously it’s a very sensitive issue, and it’s an issue that Anne felt very strongly on, but we’ll be speaking to Anne into the future. I mean, this is a unique issue, a very sensitive issue.
But constitutionally, I can’t stand here and vote for something that I know to be unconstitutional. In fact, it would be against the constitution to do that.”
“I’m used to those comments from him [Homeless activist Peter McVerry about progress on the number of beds available]. I haven’t heard him say one thing positive yet in relation to anything. Which is unfortunate because many members of his staff who work with us would have contrary views or express contrary views. I’d rather if people were more constructive...”
“I feel bad having voted against my own party and the government on this but it’s an issue very close to my heart and I could not but have supported Clare Daly’s bill [allowing abortion in cases of fatal fetal abnormalities].
“We are forcing people to go to England to have terminations of a much wanted and much loved baby. I think that is really, really wrong. That service should be available in this country.
I wanted to vote for the bill to go to the next stage, which is only committee stage so that the medical experts, the legal experts can come in and have a look at it and go through it line by line.
“If we were told after that definitively it is unconstitutional, then we wouldn’t have been able to vote for it. But I am not sure it is unconstitutional.”
Wicklow TD Anne Ferris after her expulsion from the Labour Party for opposing the party whip.
The Facebook page “I bet this brick can get more likes than the Labour Party” was only created 17 hours ago, but it is already nearly half way to achieving it’s goal. Only a matter of time to when we’re ruled by the brick instead of the planks we’ve already got.
Former Clare County Councillor Pascal Fitzgerald was made a director [of the Irish Aviation Authority] at the beginning of August. Directors on the board of the Irish Aviation Authority are paid up to €13,000 a year
…Mr Fitzgerald, who is a publican, served as a councillor for ten years before he lost his seat in the Shannon area last May. He could not be contacted for comment.
The Department of Transport said the IAA carries out “a range of operational and regulatory functions and services relating to the safety and technical aspects of civil aviation.”