FG TD in climbdown on FitzGerald insult
FINE Gael young gun Leo Varadkar performed a partial climbdown yesterday after his attack on revered former party leader Garret FitzGerald, which caused consternation in the party.
But party leader Enda Kenny didn't order his enterprise spokesman to withdraw remarks where he compared Taoiseach Brian Cowen with Dr FitzGerald, who he said "trebled the national debt" and "destroyed the country".
After a day of criticism from party colleagues, Mr Varadkar accepted his infamous comments were "over the top", but he neither apologised nor recanted his criticism.
"I stand over my criticism of Garret FitzGerald's performance as Taoiseach and his ongoing criticism of Fine Gael, but what I said in the Dail was over the top.
"Garret was not responsible for the crisis in the 1980s; Cowen is responsible for the one now," he said.
Fellow frontbenchers Fergus O'Dowd, James Reilly and Billy Timmins were among those who disagreed with Mr Varadkar's expressed views in the Dail. But Mr Kenny didn't seek a retraction from Mr Varadkar, who has now hit out at the former Fine Gael Taoiseach twice in the past week
Without directly endorsing the remarks, the party leader's spokesman said: "The party leader believes people expressing their opinions is something he encourages within the party. We are more focussed on the fact people can't get passports, Anglo Irish Bank staff getting pay rises and getting people back to work -- and this reshuffle is not going to change any of those issues.
"Leo expressed a personal opinion. It is not an opinion that would be shared by everyone," the spokesman said.
When asked if Mr Kenny agreed with his frontbencher's views, the spokesman said: "I don't think it arises."
But Dr Reilly didn't agree with Mr Varadkar's views, pointing to Dr FitzGerald's achievements. Mr Timmins said he disagreed with Mr Varadkar's "ill-judged and inappropriate" comments. "Garret FitzGerald is held in the highest esteem within Fine Gael and right across the country," he said.
And Mr O'Dowd asked Mr Varadkar to withdraw the remarks, which he described as "insulting" and "disgraceful".
Describing Dr FitzGerald as a wonderful individual, he said he found it "very difficult to accept" a FG frontbencher could insult the former leader.
After the reshuffle on Tuesday evening, Mr Varadkar said Mr Cowen's move was a "botch job". "You're no Sean Lemass, you're no Jack Lynch and you're no John Bruton," he said.
"You're a Garret FitzGerald. You've trebled the national debt, you've effectively destroyed the country and now you've a dirty, wasteful botch job of a reshuffle. And it's the last thing you do so enjoy writing your boring articles in 'The Irish Times' in a few years," he said to Mr Cowen, in an apparent reference to Dr FitzGerald's columns.