Tuesday 27 June 2017

Cowen's wife warns Martin to 'watch his back' in Hanafin attack

Brian Cowen and his wife Mary. Photos: PA
Brian Cowen and his wife Mary. Photos: PA

Niall O'Connor and Philip Ryan

The wife of former Taoiseach Brian Cowen has come out in defence of Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin in the ongoing row with Mary Hanafin.

The party has been left shell-shocked after Mr Cowen's wife Mary launched an extraordinary attack on Ms Hanafin, who has consistently called for Fianna Fáil to consider coalition with Fine Gael.

In a series of Facebook posts, Mrs Cowen warned Mr Martin to "watch his back", seemingly pointing to a threat to his leadership.

Mrs Cowen, who still remains active in the party, was referring to remarks made by Ms Hanafin in an article in the Irish Independent on Tuesday.

The Dún Laoghaire councillor told this newspaper she had been approached by grassroots members at the Fianna Fáil ard fheis on Saturday, who urged her to "influence" party policy.

But in a series of posts on a private Fianna Fáil discussion forum, Mrs Cowen took major issue with Ms Hanafin's claims.

"Have just read the Irish Independent and I see an article about Mary Hanifin (sic) stating that Fianna Fáil members have called on her to influence party policy."

The Facebook post continues, claiming that Ms Hanafin is "not elected yet and she is running the party".

And it adds: "Micheál Martin better watch his back as there wouldn't be to (sic) much loyalty there!!!!!!"

Mrs Cowen further criticised Ms Hanafin in comments that were attached to the post.

"She seems to be getting plenty of air and press time," she posted. And in response to a comment from a member that Ms Hanafin is "never a team player", Mrs Cowen replies: "That's for sure."

The Facebook page has almost 1,400 members, many of whom are party activists, councillors, senators and TDs.

The posts by Mrs Cowen were later deleted after she learned that the remarks had been picked up by the media.

Efforts to contact Mrs Cowen directly proved unsuccessful.

However, the authenticity of her Facebook posts has been verified.

Ms Hanafin declined to comment when contacted last night.

Party figures yesterday were left stunned by the row, pointing out that Mrs Cowen is not known to adopt an outspoken view within the party.

But there was also surprise expressed in relation to the decision by the Cowen family to row in behind Mr Martin.

The same sources said they believed the attack on Ms Hanafin stems from her decision to vote against Mr Cowen during a vote of confidence in his leadership in 2011.

It is understood that Mrs Cowen and Ms Hanafin have not spoken since then.

Ms Hanafin, who is contesting the Dún Laoghaire constituency alongside her council colleague Cormac Devlin, has infuriated many frontbench TDs in recent months with her comments about the party.

Heave

However, several deputies privately agree wholeheartedly with her claims that the party should not rule out Fine Gael as a potential coalition partner.

There is now a growing view within Fianna Fáil that Mr Martin was deeply mistaken in his decision to say he would not do business with Enda Kenny's party.

He has also said that under no circumstances will he do business with Sinn Féin, particularly in light of the Thomas 'Slab' Murphy controversy.

Two separate leading frontbench members have told this newspaper that if the party does not secure at least 35 seats, then a heave against Mr Martin is a real possibility.

Irish Independent

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