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Colm Keaveney - the Labour chairman, and the first Labour TD ever to be elected in Galway East - will be ejected from the parliamentary party. Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland
Down the plank

Labour chairman Keaveney votes against government on respite grant cut

Keaveney will be booted from the Labour parliamentary party after voting against cuts to respite care grants.

THE CHAIRMAN of the Labour Party, Colm Keaveney, has voted against the government in a Dáil vote on cutting the annual Respite Care Grant.

Keaveney sided with opposition parties in voting to remove the cut, from €1,700 to €1,375 per year, as part of the Social Welfare Bill.

The Galway East TD voted alongside Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and independent TDs. The motion was nonetheless defeated by 54 votes to 87 when taken electronically, and by 55 votes to 89 when repeated through a manual vote.

“Acta non verba!”, Keaveney tweeted shortly after his vote. The Latin phrase means ‘actions, not words’.

The Social Welfare Bill was passed as a whole, shortly afterwards, by 93 votes to 53.

Keaveney’s vote against party lines means he is automatically stripped of the Labour party whip – creating a difficult situation for the Labour party in which its chairman, the first ever Labour TD to be elected from his constituency, cannot be counted among its parliamentary ranks.

Keaveney is the fifth Labour TD to vote against the party in 19 months; having elected 37 TDs, and winning a subsequent by-election, the party now has 33 TDs – more than enough to ensure the coalition’s majority, but also significantly fewer than it began the 31st Dáil with.

‘Ideological failure’

Speaking on Newstalk shortly after his vote, Keaveney said he had opposed the bill because of an “ideological failure” between Labour and Fine Gael.

“My value system actually can’t let me vote for this Budget,” he said, adding he would not be able to look his constituents “in the eye” if he had approved it.

Keaveney had followed the party whip and voted in favour of the Social Welfare Bill, as a whole, when it was put to a second stage vote last night. Shortly before that voted he had tweeted, “Alea iacta est” – meaning, ‘the die is cast’, a quote originally attributed to Julius Caesar.

Three other former Labour TDs who have also lost their party whips – Roisín Shortall, Patrick Nulty and Tommy Broughan – also voted to remove the clause from the Bill, as did former Fine Gael TD Denis Naughten.

Labour chairman Keaveney votes against government on respite grant cut
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  • Colm Keaveney's tweets (2)

  • Colm Keaveney's tweets (1)

Keaveney has enjoyed a fraught relationship with the party’s leader, Eamon Gilmore, and its ministers; Gilmore was known to support Keaveney’s Galway rival, Derek Nolan, in the party chairmanship election earlier this year.

In 2007 Keaveney – then a Labour councillor – resigned from the party after failing to secure its nomination for the Seanad elections. He had unsuccessfully fought the 2007 general election in Galway East, coming in eleventh place with 1,747 first preference votes.

Referring to the then-leader of the Labour Party, he told the Galway Independent: “As long as Pat Rabbitte is in the Labour party, Colm Keaveney won’t be.” Keaveney rejoined the party in June 2008, nine months after Rabbitte had stepped down to be replaced by Gilmore.

Keaveney won 4,254 first preference votes in 2011, polling in eighth place, but benefitted from transfers from Labour running mate Lorraine Higgins to take the fourth and final seat behind Fianna Fáil’s Michael Kitt and the Fine Gael pairing of Ciaran Cannon and Paul Connaughton.

Earlier: Keaveney support for Budget “not taken for a given”

Plus: Labour chair still hoping Budget cut to child benefit can be reversed

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