Dissident Fine Gael TD Brian Walsh could find himself as a key member of a new political party in Ireland, but its possible formation depends on a vote facing the Dáil in the autumn.
Five Fine Gael TDs - Brian Walsh, Lucinda Creighton, Billy Timmins, Terence Flanagan, and Peter Mathews - were expelled from the parliamentary party for voting against the Government’s Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill.
Since then speculation has been rife that the five are set to form a new political party. The TDs concerned have played down this view, but the rules of Dáil Éireann could force their hand and leave them with no choice but to create a new centre-right entity in Irish politics.
Under the current Dáil standing orders, the expelled FG TDs have no speaking rights in the Dáil; neither can they form another technical group for Leader’s Questions as one already exists. They are further prohibited from forming a technical group as that privilege is only open to those elected as Independents. The five TDs were all elected to Fine Gael and despite being expelled from the parliamentary party, all remain FG members.
As a result Dep Billy Timmins has put forward a motion seeking to change the standing orders to allow a second technical group be formed. However An Taoiseach Enda Kenny is in no mood to tolerate those who defied his orders on the abortion Bill, and the Government looks set to defeat the motion when it comes before the Dáil after the summer recess.
Therefore, if the five TDs wish to gain speaking time and prominence in the Dáil, the current rules of the house, and a defeat of Dep Timmins’ motion, could leave them no choice but to form a new political party.
This may not be their desired outcome as Dep Brian Walsh told the Galway Advertiser this week: “I was expelled from the parliamentary party, not from Fine Gael. 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.”
It is known he is keen to regain his place in the party so he can contest the 2016 elections on the FG ticket. Furthermore Dep Creighton has persistently denied that she wants to form a new party and “has no plans to leave FG”.
Nonetheless, the five TDs know circumstances may yet dictate their ultimate response to the issue. Dep Walsh said that talk of a “new party” is “purely speculation” but could “depend on the outcome of the vote” on Dep Timmins’ motion.
“We may have to look at forming a party, but it would not be a fully fledged party,” Dep Walsh said. “Anything like that would be more to do with getting speaking rights. It is premature to talk about a new political party.”
Speculation also arose in Galway political circles that the five expelled FG TDs may put out feelers to Independent Galway West TD Noel Grealish and former Labour TD Colm Keaveney to see if they are interested in becoming part of the new formation. If the entity does win speaking rights it needs at least seven members.
This week Dep Grealish said: “If they approach me I will talk to them. I will always talk to those who wish to talk to me, but I will have to wait to see what is the state of play after the vote on the motion.”
Nonetheless a new party remains possible as it is understood there are tensions within the current technical group, and members such as Dep Shane Ross and others are dissatisfied with the current arrangement.
In the meantime, the Five expelled FG TDs will meet at the end of August discuss policy issues and other matters of interest.