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Keaveney: Mistakes were made but Micheál Martin has apologised for them

Colm Keaveney tells TheJournal.ie why he is now a member of Fianna Fáil and why he didn’t run for Europe.

Colm Keaveney with Micheál Martin at Leinster House yesterday
Colm Keaveney with Micheál Martin at Leinster House yesterday
Image: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

COLM KEAVENEY FIRST knew Micheál Martin when he was president of the Union of Students in Ireland and the Fianna Fáil TD was an opposition health spokesperson in the mid-90s, but it was not until nearly two decades later that the two really bonded.

In the halls of Leinster House on Budget Day in December 2012, Keaveney’s and Martin’s paths crossed as they considered the ramifications of another tough budget.

For Keaveney he was on the brink of a big decision as he would later vote against the social welfare measures of the Budget, losing the Labour whip and gradually descending down the path out of the party altogether.

In October, whilst languishing on the independent benches, where he had little to no speaking time, Keaveney and Martin’s paths crossed again.

“At the last Budget, I met him on the stairs and it was like déjà vu. We were talking about it and that led to a process,” Keaveney told TheJournal.ie last night.

“I had clearly been monitoring and observing [Fianna Fáil],  I am passionate about mental health and disabilities. I had seen what was taking place on the ground. I had been working with people like Éamon Ó Cuív and Michael Kitt, working on a campaign to resist bed closures in mental health in our areas.”

Cordial though he may have been with those Fianna Fáil TDs, there is little doubt Keaveney ripped into the former party of government in the Dáil as recently as last year.

‘Mistakes were made’

But for Keaveney the past is the past: “There is no doubt about it that mistakes were made in the past, but there’s also no doubt that Micheál Martin apologised for those mistakes.

“I am witnessing a humility, a recognition, that creates a distinction about the type of politics that’s emerging in Fianna Fáil, that makes them stand out from the other parties.”

Keaveney’s decision to join Fianna Fáil is likely to create some difficulties locally in Galway East, but he insists he has the “height of regard” for Michael Kitt, his new constituency colleague.

However, Galway West TD Éamon Ó Cuív said that Keaveney would face a challenge convincing the local organisation in Galway.

“I think he’ll get on fine. The biggest challenge is always with the local organisation, nationally I don’t think he will be a problem. There’s a bit of bedding-down always,” he told TheJournal.ie.

Ó Cuív added that he welcomed anyone who joined Fianna Fáil and said that he personally gets on “pretty well” with Keaveney.

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For his part Micheál Martin, who looked particularly happy on the plinth yesterday, said that if any other TD or Senator want to join Fianna Fáil they are welcome to make an application.

He said that each application “will be judged on its merits” but confirmed that there have been no other applications from Oireachtas members to join the party.

“Clearly there has to be some degree of conformity and understanding and agreement on key issues and myself and Colm had those discussions,” Martin said at Leinster House.

“So, you know, we’re open for people to join the party. There is a process by which that happens, people apply and then we discuss the merits and demerits of each case as it happens. But we haven’t had any other applications.”

Keaveney admits a lack of finance ultimately prevented him from running in the European elections next year as an independent.

He now faces a similarly difficult task in convincing his constituents that even though many of them elected him because he wasn’t Fianna Fáil, he is now worthy of their vote because he is.

Keaveney: Fianna Fáil is a party that has learned from the mistakes of the past

Read: ‘It must be a sign of his own desperation’: Here’s what Labour thinks of Keaveney’s FF switch

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About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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