dissidents Dep Brian Walsh and Sen Fidelma Healy-Eames have been stripped of their status within the organisation by a party HQ determined to reduce them to the lowest grade of membership.
The two politicians, who were expelled from the parliamentary party for voting against the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill, have received a memo from FG general secretary Tom Curran informing them they are “not entitled” to call themselves a FG TD or senator.
The memo outlined their downgraded status at branch and local level, with Dep Walsh and Sen Healy-Eames informed they are “no longer entitled to sit at the top table at constituency meetings” and are “not entitled to attend any branch meeting except their own”.
Neither “have to be consulted about the date of any branch of constituency meeting” nor do they “have any speaking rights at constituency meetings, save that of a member”.
However they retain the same rights and obligations “as any other Fine Gael member”.
To further underline their diminished status, both Walsh and Healy-Eames only received this information a week after it had been supplied to their constituency colleagues, Dep Seán Kyne and Sen Hildegarde Naughton, and FG branch chairs and officials throughout Galway West.
“This is typical of the party’s heavy handed approach, so the memo didn’t surprise me,” Dep Walsh told the Galway Advertiser. “However we should have been advised in advance about this and not be hearing it second hand from colleagues or through the media. This is the approach the party has taken though, and it’s disappointing.”
The memo is a sign of how party HQ now regards Dep Walsh and Sen Healy-Eames as being at the bottom rung of the party hierarchy and that it expects Galway West FG members to adopt the same view.
However in their respective branches, Dep Walsh and Sen Healy-Eames retain high levels of support and are unlikely to be abandoned by their branch and local colleagues.
Dep Walsh says he will abide by the rules of the memo, but he does not accept its claim that he is “not entitled” to call himself a FG TD.
“I was expelled from the parliamentary party, not from Fine Gael,” he says. “I am still a member of Fine Gael so I am a still a Fine Gael TD. I continue to be a member of the party.”
Dep Walsh says he and Sen Healy-Eames are being punished for adhering to traditional Fine Gael values.
“We stood by the party’s pre-election promise that we would not support the introduction of abortion,” he said. “We honoured that promise to the electorate of Galway.”