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'If I've to work out of a shoebox I'd do it': Ex-Labour senator on his office eviction

James Heffernan had refused to leave an office he shared with former Labour colleague John Gilroy.

James Heffernan
James Heffernan
Image: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

Updated 10.55am 

A FORMER LABOUR senator has been moved out of the office he shared with an ex-colleague in Leinster House with authorities changing the locks in order to ensure he does not return.

Limerick-based independent senator James Heffernan had refused to leave the office he shared with Labour’s John Gilroy in January, insisting he would not give into a campaign of “harassment and bullying”.

However his belongings were removed from the office on the Labour floor last Tuesday and moved to a new space on the ground floor of the Leinster House 2000 complex in the Oireachtas, close to where former Labour TD Róisín Shortall is based.

It’s believed the Superintendent of the House subsequently changed the locks on Gilroy’s office. Speaking to this morning, Heffernan claimed that Labour’s actions made “a bit of a joke and a bit of a mock” of the party’s strong anti-bullying stance.

Labour has insisted it is normal practice for members who are expelled from the parliamentary party to be moved from their offices. Gilroy has strongly denied claims of bullying.

Earlier, Heffernan told Limerick’s Live 95fm that the issue was not about the office, saying:

I’m happy to get on and go about my work. If I’ve to work out of a shoebox somewhere I’d do it.

He said that changing the locks was “a bit extreme, a bit over the top” and added: “When you don’t fit the mould and go along with things you can be targeted.”

‘Very fond of James’ 

Gilroy said yesterday he was happy the matter was resolved and insisted he did not wish to fall out with his former party colleague. He insisted:

I am very fond of James. You should never fall out with someone over politics.

john-gilroy-labour-2-2 John Gilroy

Heffernan, who lost the Labour whip after voting against budget cuts in 2012, returned from the Christmas break to find all of his personal belongings packed into boxes in the Leinster House office he shared with Gilroy.

Gilroy said his former party colleague’s vote against the Water Services Bill last month was the final straw, and at that point he told him to leave. When Heffernan failed to leave the office, he took it upon himself to pack up his belongings.

However, Heffernan refused to leave and continued to work from the office although Gilroy claimed he had barely seen him since politicians returned to Leinster House after the Christmas break.

‘Normal practice’ 

Labour whip Emmet Stagg insisted it was “normal practice” for TDs or Senators who are no longer members of the Labour parliamentary grouping to be moved from the party’s offices in Leinster House.

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“He was no longer a member of the Labour parliamentary party and therefore he was moved,” Stagg said.

This is despite TD Anne Ferris being allowed to remain in her office on the Labour floor even though she voted against the party on an abortion bill last month.

The Wicklow TD has been told she can stay where she is provided she continues to support the government in votes with a view to returning to the Labour fold in the autumn.

Heffernan said that the €23,000 allowance that Labour continues to get in his name should be given back to the exchequer. On his own political future, he did not rule out joining a political party or some form of alliance ahead of the next general election.

“I would like to see a common policy platform put together by like-minded independent people,” he added.

First published on 10 March 2015

Previously: “We’re at the end of our tether” – Labour can’t make this Senator leave his office

More: This senator has been kicked out of his office by his former Labour colleague

About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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