Tensions rise between John Deasy and Waterford’s FG organisation
A CONFLICT that has been bubbling under the surface for close to a decade finally boiled over on Monday evening last, June 24, when over 60 members of Waterford Fine Gael declared publicly that they no longer had confidence in John Deasy TD.
The fallout from the unanimous vote was felt nationally, with accusations of bullying, deceit and treachery charging past the county boundaries and on to the national headlines.
The protagonist of the piece does not talk to this newspaper, nor any other local media for that matter, choosing instead to talk to reporters in The Irish Independent and The Irish Times.
The Waterford News & Star has reached out to Mr Deasy for comment, which, much like his refusal to reply, has become standard practice.
“He is the Rebel without a cause, and I mean that literally,” one Fine Gael member – who asked not to be named – said to the Waterford News & Star this week.
“He plays by his own rules and doesn’t seem to fight for any cause in his home constituency. He supported the Herity Report, which was the death nail in Waterford’s fight for 24/7. He publicly spoke out against investment in the city’s North Quays and when Dungarvan needed him most, when The Sacred Heart unit at Dungarvan Community Hospital closed, he was nowhere to be found. He used to have friends in Dungarvan. He used to have loyal supporters, but they have now disappeared. He’s on his own, trying desperately, and using whatever, and whomever he can, to throw mud at the Fine Gael party.”
In the past, Deasy swam in a pool of loyal supporters that included the Careys, the Geoghegans and the O’Mahonys. Those three names, and their roles in the recent Local Elections, provided the heat that boiled the 60 strong Fine Gael meeting on June 24.
Jacqueline Kelly (O’Mahony), received a phone call from Fine Gael stalwart Maurice Cummins, in May of this year, asking if she would run in the local elections.
The thought process from Cummins and the hierarchy of Fine Gael was that a city candidate was needed to pick up the city votes that were left behind when Tom Cunningham and Jim Darcy lost their seats.
“I hadn’t been in Fine Gael for over 10 years but I didn’t need long to think about it…I told him I would run,” Jacqueline told the Waterford News & Star.
“Within a few days I had got the go ahead from a senior Fine Gael official, had my election photograph taken and my bio and details sent to HQ for my flyers. I was told that the decision would be officially ratified by Dublin within a few days.”
A week passed and Jacqueline heard nothing. She rang her Fine Gael contact who told her that emails had been sent by John Deasy and another, opposing her addition to the ticket.
“I cancelled my holiday, and sold my tickets to Rod Stewart in anticipation of an election canvas, and was then told I wouldn’t be added,” she said.
“I have sent emails and made calls to the party HQ – including to the Taoiseach – trying to find out why, and trying to find out what emails were sent about me but they have all been ignored.”
Jacqueline wasn’t selected, but Fiona Dowd was. In national papers this week, Fiona said that there was a “complete mob mentality” at last Monday’s meeting.
She also confirmed to the Waterford News & Star that she had lodged an official complaint with the Taoiseach’s office and the chair of the parliamentary party.
“I welcome the news that a full review of the conduct of the Waterford Fine Gael party would be conducted,” Fiona said.
Jacqueline Kelly used to be an employee of Fiona Dowd, until she was sacked by her five years ago. Jacqueline took a Workplace Relations Committee (WRC) action against Ms Dowd, and won.
At the meeting last Monday night, according to a Fine Gael member, Ms Dowd was continually attempting to interrupt Maurice Cummins, among other speakers and according to Ms Dowd, she was told to “shut up and stop interrupting”. This claim is disputed by other Fine Gael members in attendance.
“This is the basis of her bullying claim,” the Fine Gael member told the Waterford News & Star.
Sharon Carey took up the seat of her late father John – who was much revered, not only in Fine Gael but across political divides in Waterford – in September of last year. When asked why a family that had such close links to John Deasy were no longer his supporters, she said she didn’t know.
“My father was the most loyal supporter that John Deasy ever had,” Sharon said. “When he passed away, John attended the funeral, but didn’t sympathise with any of us. When I was co-opted onto the Council I rang him and sent text messages, none of which were answered. The Careys canvassed for John back in the day but he wanted nothing to do with me.”
Sharon said that the addition of Fiona Dowd, a candidate located just three miles away, played a major role in her losing her seat.
“When Fiona was eliminated, her transfers didn’t come to me,” Sharon said. “Fiona doesn’t like me saying that publicly, but it’s the truth.”
It is believed within Fine Gael that it was John Deasy’s close relationship with John Paul Phelan (Fine Gael’s National Director of Elections) that ensure that Fiona Dowd had her place on the ticket with the same assurance that Jacqueline Kelly wouldn’t have hers.
Cllr Damien Geoghegan was a self-confessed John Deasy supporter who topped the poll in Dungarvan this year, despite the addition of another candidate in his area, who happened to be a Deasy ally. Cllr Geoghegan told the Waterford News & Star that Deasy’s light had faded with him “long before that election”.
“Our relationship changed because of John’s inaction as a TD,” Cllr Geoghegan said. “He has been invisible on local and national issues relating to Waterford and at various times he has undermined every one of us in the party. John Deasy would have told John Paul Phelan who to add and who not to add on the local election ticket and that’s why Ian Noctor and Fiona Dowd were added and Jacqueline Kelly refused.”
Cllr Geoghegan, who said that he hasn’t seen Deputy Deasy in a “couple of years”, said that the man has shown no respect to his party and county, but also to Waterford’s local media.
“Over the past few days, Deasy’s friends in the national media have been all over this, giving him plenty of column inches,” Cllr Geoghegan said.
“I find it astonishing that he hasn’t spoken to the local media in Waterford, and of course everyone else is to blame for that except for him. If he has a poor relationship with the local media then he has nobody else to blame for that but himself.”
Speaking on Wednesday last, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar acknowledged the uneasy atmosphere within Fine Gael’s Waterford ranks.
“There has been a long-standing split in the organisation there and that’s now come to a head and as part of that I intend to deal with it over the recess,” he stated.
“I know John Deasy quite well; I appointed him as representative in the United States and he’s done a very good job. He hasn’t to date come to me with evidence of bullying in Waterford but if he is now making that allegation then that has to be taken seriously and that has to be investigated.”
The Taoiseach added: “But as I said there is a long-standing split in the organisation there, it’s come to a head and we need to bring it to a close. And I intend to do that as party leader over the next couple of months.”
Speaking in the Irish Independent, Deputy Deasy said that he has become “desensitised” to the political attacks from local rivals “because it has been going on for 20 years”. He said that there is a “rump” in Waterford’s Fine Gael branch who have “dished out personal abuse” to him, his father and their supporters for years”.
Responding to the allegations of bullying in Fine Gael, Cllr Geoghegan, Senator Paudie Coffey and Maurice Cummins all dismissed the claims as “absurd”.
“Nobody knows what he’s talking about in relation to bullying,” said Maurice Cummins. “Let him spell it out. People in the organisation know nothing about any bullying case.”
“People are being used by John Deasy, and they don’t even know it,” said Cllr Geoghegan. “In all of my time in Fine Gael I have never witnessed any bullying and this seems to be the final act of a bitter and desperate man.”
Senator Paudie Coffey, whose brother Eoin tabled the vote of no-confidence in Deputy Deasy told the Waterford News & Star that he refuted “in the strongest possible terms” the allegations of bullying made by both Deputy Deasy and Ms Dowd.
“I believe that these issues are “red herrings” raised by the deputy to deflect away from the very obvious loss of support from the his long term support base in Fine Gael, due to his lack of interest and action on Waterford issues as a TD,” Senator Coffey said.
“People like Cllr Geoghegan and many others within the Organisation here in Waterford who up to recently supported Deasy supported the vote of no confidence and that says a lot.”