Kenny is 'no Bambi' says Rabbitte as he slams Fine Gael
Published 05/08/2014 | 02:30
Taoiseach Enda Kenny is "no Bambi" and is a tough operator, according to former Minister Pat Rabbitte.
In an interview with the Irish Independent, Mr Rabbitte lashed out at what he called Fine Gael 'tribalism' and dangerous game playing, which did "great damage" to Labour before the May elections.
Mr Rabbitte criticised the lack of competence within Fine Gael in the wake of the Troika's departure last December, and the failure to contain the scandals in the Department of Justice.
"People expect a basic sure-footedness and a level of competence from Government, even if they don't like the decisions taken. They got that for three years from this Government," he said.
"And then, for the months preceding the election, there was drift and there were mistakes that let some controversies drag on for too long."
Mr Rabbitte criticised Mr Kenny's handling of the water charges issue in the weeks before the elections, which he said drew a "visceral" response from many in Labour.
"I think their enforcement was seen as very tribal on the part of Fine Gael by a lot of Labour people. Putting the water charges issue out there just before the election showed they just didn't understand the visceral response from political activists and people towards Labour on that issue," he said.
As a result, he said every ultra-left group campaigned on the water issue and all of them "targeted" Labour.
"Everything from the more extreme ultra-left groups and Sinn Fein targeted Labour. I think that was a big mistake by Fine Gael," Mr Rabbitte added.
The former Communications Minister also criticised Fine Gael's handling of the discretionary medical card issue, which he said offended Labour voters' sense of social justice.
"I have never quite understood the medical cards issue. That offended Labour voters' sense of justice," he said.
The 65-year-old said it amazed him that after the election, the Government discovered that only 4.6pc of discretionary card holders had actually lost them.
"That was a tiny amount of savings and an issue like that did so much damage," he said.
Mr Rabbitte also said he was greatly concerned as to how former Justice Minister Alan Shatter handled the Garda whistleblowers' controversy, and said the saga was allowed to drag on for far too long.
"There was unease as to how the McCabe issue was being handled. There was a feeling, not just on the back benches, that the controversy was let run for too long," he said. On Mr Kenny, Mr Rabbitte said the perception of Mr Kenny as an ruthless, autocratic leader was a crude caricature, but said the Taoiseach was certainly tough.
"You don't get to be the leader of your party and you don't get to be Taoiseach without being tough. Politicians who have become leaders of their party and feigned a Bambi-like approach to the world are fooling the media. You don't get to where Enda Kenny has gotten to without a certain toughness," he said.
Mr Rabbitte said in his view the country was lucky to get the experienced Cabinet it did in 2011, given the crisis facing the country. He also hit out at critics of the Labour Party who accused it of failing to put manners on Fine Gael. "People who would never vote for the Labour Party get very indignant about Labour not keeping its coalition partner on the straight and narrow," he said.