FF backlash over Cowen appearance on hustings with 'Cope'
TWO Fianna Fail European candidates have distanced themselves from Brian Cowen after he made a surprise contribution to Pat 'The Cope' Gallagher's election campaign.
Mr Gallagher's running mate senator Thomas Byrne and Dublin city councillor Mary Fitzpatrick have warned that the party must be seen to move away from the past – a clear indication of their unease about Mr Cowen's appearance on the campaign trail.
The former Taoiseach was photographed on the canvass in Offaly on Saturday alongside Mr Gallagher, who is a sitting MEP. The emergence of Mr Cowen actively campaigning for a European candidate took party headquarters by surprise.
Senior sources were last night adamant that his contribution would do no favours for the party's local and European candidates across the country.
"Cowen reminds people of the bad times. It's the last thing we needed just a few days out from polling day," said a party strategist.
Mr Gallagher, who appears to have edged out Mr Byrne in the Midlands-North-West constituency, has insisted that he welcomed Mr Cowen's contribution.
However, Mr Byrne and Ms Fitzpatrick said the party must move away from the past.
Speaking to the Irish Independent, Ms Fitzpatrick said the party was filled with people who were "focused solely on the future".
"We are most committed to the renewal and rebuilding of Fianna Fail. I'm not interested in the past; we have to fight for the future and for families who are being let down by this Government," she said.
In an interview with LMFM, Mr Byrne echoed Ms Fitzpatrick's remarks.
"What I would say is that I have been very grateful for the support of deputy Barry Cowen and indeed the Offaly [Fianna Fail] county councillors who have been very, very active in canvassing for me in Co Offaly," he said.
"Fianna Fail voters will have to make a choice. Do we look to the future, do we look to rebuilding the party, do we look to rebuilding the country?"
Sources close to Mr Byrne went a step further last night and said Mr Cowen's appearance on the campaign trail was "not helpful for the wider party and its candidates".
The row comes after an Irish Independent/Millward Brown opinion poll showed Fianna Fail's support slip two points to 21pc. FF leader Micheal Martin saw his satisfaction level drop six points to 28pc.