Labour's Alan Kelly: 'Mary Mitchell O'Connor is worst minister I ever dealt with'
Labour TD Alan Kelly has castigated the performance of Jobs Minister Mary Mitchell O'Connor, saying her inability to answer basic questions was "the worst I have seen in my 10 years in politics".
The Labour TD risks reigniting controversy about the embattled minister who has been subject to fierce criticism recently. But he insists gender is not the issue - it's about competence.
The Tipperary TD also has strong criticisms of Housing Minister Simon Coveney, though he is more flattering about the performance of Health Minister Simon Harris. However, he warns that the Department of Health does not have an adequate budget and the funding shortfall will inevitably be revisited in the coming months.
The former environment minister has said he was appalled by Ms Mitchell's O'Connor's handling of basic Dáil questions posed by him.
"It was the worst I have seen in a minister in my 10 years in politics. And I'm not going to allow anyone to push me into a female-male row here now. It's purely a question of competence," he said.
Mr Kelly said the minister told the Dáil that a special cabinet sub-committee was dealing with Brexit. But then she could not say how many times it had met. "Even from memory, you would know that - even if it was not written down in front of you," he said.
On Housing Minister Mr Coveney, who followed him in the revamped Environment Department, he was also strongly critical.
"He keeps announcing things. Yes, I was accused of making a lot of announcements. But I didn't do a video with myself all over it. I laid the groundwork for much of what he is now doing. The problem is it takes four to five years to see results."
But he was more flattering about Health Minister Simon Harris, who he is also "marking" along with Ministers Mitchell O'Connor and Harris.
"I find Harris is somebody I can work with. He's got great energy. But energy is not enough when you don't have a real health budget. The funding is insufficient and we will have to come back to it again."
Mr Kelly's comments came before another opinion poll showed Labour is struggling in popularity rankings. In the Behaviour & Attitudes poll for the 'Sunday Times', the party is on 3pc, and down two points on its October rating.
Fianna Fáil is rated the most popular party on 30pc while Fine Gael is up 2pc to 28pc.
There is further good news for Taoiseach Enda Kenny as the Independent Alliance, which has four members of the government team, is also up two points to 5pc, something which may help steady the minority coalition.
The '€5 Budget' with increased welfare payments may have also helped the Government's overall approval rating, which has increased by three points. Just over one third of those polled, or 34pc, now approve of this minority Coalition.
The AAA-PBP is up 1pc to 3pc while Sinn Féin is unchanged on 17pc. Independents, which include rural TDs and leftist 'Independents4Change' groups, are on 11pc.