Thursday 20 July 2017

'Jobs for the boys'-How Stephen Donnelly ridiculed Fianna Fáil before joining the party

Stephen Donnelly is introduced by Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin as Mayo TD Lisa Chambers looks on at Leinster House. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Stephen Donnelly is introduced by Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin as Mayo TD Lisa Chambers looks on at Leinster House. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Stephen Donnelly was immediately on the back foot over his decision to join Fianna Fáil, as he was confronted by the stinging criticism he had previously aimed at the party.

Despite Mr Donnelly's consistent attacks on the party over recent years, Micheál Martin welcomed him as "new talent" who could "broaden the attractiveness of the party".

But shortly after being paraded at Leinster House, Mr Donnelly struggled when asked on RTÉ's 'Drivetime' about an article in which he wrote that the culture associated with Fianna Fáil was one "of jobs for the boys, bonuses for the boys, lack of accountability and two fingers to the Dáil".

"I don't know where you're quoting it from. That's certainly not my language. I don't believe I wrote those words. It doesn't sound like the kind of language I use," he said.

The article in question appeared in the 'Sunday Independent' in January 2014. In the article, he wrote the "jobs for the boys" description came from a seasoned political observer, but he appeared to agree with the assessment - adding: "I hate it when the cynics are right."

Nonetheless, Fianna Fáil believes the recruitment marks a milestone in its campaign to rebuild the party's image.

The move has unsettled some of the party's front bench, who suspect the Wicklow/East Carlow TD merely sees Fianna Fáil as "a fast-track to cabinet" after the next election.

Read more: Stephen Donnelly gets tongue tied as he denies writing Sunday Independent column

His immediate appointment as the party's spokesman on Brexit has led to speculation that he has done a further deal with Mr Martin on potential roles in the next government should Fianna Fáil win power.

However, Mr Donnelly denied this, saying: "No, not at all. The cynical approach would be to stay on the Opposition benches, keep the head down, see what the numbers are like next time out and see what I could do then."

Asked about his previous attacks on Fianna Fáil, the former Social Democrats co-leader said: "I'm not going to retract various statements I made over mistakes made back leading up to the crash.

"What is important is what's happening to Ireland today. Brexit is happening today. American protectionism is happening today.

"The rise of extremism in Europe is happening today."

Mr Donnelly also claimed there were very few differences between the policies of the Social Democrats, which he quit last September, and Fianna Fáil.

Speaking to the Irish Independent last night, his former colleague Róisín Shortall said: "I don't know how he can make a claim like that."

She cited her party's position on the USC, the baptism barrier, repealing of the Eighth Amendment and the establishment of an anti-corruption agency as some examples where the parties differed.

Mr Martin said Fianna Fáil's sitting TD in Wicklow, Pat Casey, had welcomed the new recruit and that the party intended to retain two seats in the constituency at the next election.

What Donnelly said about his new party in the past . . .

February 2016

"We must challenge the stale cartel of Irish Civil War politics."

January 2016

"To a point, it's hard to blame them - the pre-election, tax-cutting doctrine worked a treat for FF. To a point. But when it comes to running a country, increasing longer-term risks to satisfy short-term gains will, ultimately, catch up with you."

October 2015

"Eroding the tax base is exactly what Fianna Fáil did during the bubble. It felt pretty good at the time, but it had disastrous consequences."

December 2013

"I don't think FF has coherent policies...it is still recovering from what's happened."

November 2012

"Fianna Fáil presided over lucky-dip budgets with a surprise for everyone in the audience. On budget day they would grin into the cameras, and FG and Labour would be in the background, shouting that they would have had less taxes, spent even more. These budgets, prepared in secrecy, laid the groundwork for the collapse - the property Ponzi scheme was super-charged, a stable tax base was replaced with stamp duty, expenditure soared."

Irish Independent

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