Fine Gael TD Tom Hayes has staunchly defended his stance that he will not vote against the Government if a vote on Kickham Barracks closure is ever taken in the Dail, explaining to the public meeting that losing the party whip would cost him any influence he had to fight on behalf of the people of South Tippeary.
Deputy Hayes, who is the constituency’s only government party TD, pledged that he was 100% behind the campaign to save the barracks and promised to fight as hard as he could to keep it open.
But when asked at the meeting by a member of the organising committee and a member of the public whether he would support the government if the proposed closure was put to a vote, he said it would be a decision for the Cabinet to make.
But when pressed further from the floor, he referred to how Denis Naughten was expelled from the Fine Gael parliamentary party when he voted against the Government on the Roscommon Hospital issue.
“Denis Naughten voted against the Government and he was thrown out. I want to stay in the party to make sure we have got the deputations to go (government ministers) to make sure the hospital and other local health services under threat are saved.
“I am not flinching from that for anybody. But I will fight tooth and nail to do everything possible to prevent it (Kickham Barracks) being shut. It’s a Cabinet decision and I ask you to respect it but I will fight the Cabinet, Minister Shatter, Enda Kenny. I will take on any one of them you want me to take on,” he declared in response to criticisms from the floor over his stance.
A few days previously Independent TD Mattie McGrath issued a statement slamming Deputy Hayes’ stance as a “complete and utter cop out” and accused him of not consulting or arranging meetings with other South Tipperary elected representatives to discuss issues of great importance to the constitutency with a view to working together on them.
But at the Save Kickham Barracks public meeting there were calls for the county’s public representatives to present a united front in fighting their campaign.
Former Chairman of PDFORRA Joe O’Grady when Kickham Barracks was last under serious threat of closure in the 1990s, said he didn’t want a “slagging match” at the meeting and he didn’t think they were here to get at any public representative.
“I would urge people tonight rather than blaming people and starting a war here to let’s fight this issue together,” he said.
Mr O’Grady said a plan of action should be drawn up to fight the campaign to ensure it came to national attention and recounted how the previous Kickham Barracks action committee collected a petition of 20,000 signatures over one weekend.
Fianna Fail Senator Labhras O’Murchu said they should avoid partisanship and party politics in this campaign. “The only chance we have of success is to be united.”
“I understand Tom Hayes’ point of view. Anyone of use can find ourselves in the same position but if we play the political card we aren’t as sincere as we make out,” he said.
WUAG Clonmel Borough and Co. Council Cllr Billy Shoer called on Deputy Hayes and Labour Senator Denis Landy to work with their colleagues representing Mullingar, Cavan and Castlebar where army barracks were under threat to collectively put pressure on the government to stop the closures happening.
Deputy Hayes promised to take up the Cllr Shoer’s proposal.