Wednesday 22 November 2017

‘Anyone called Cowen should stay quiet’ - Rabbitte stings former Taoiseach’s brother with Dail putdown

Cormac Murphy

COMMUNICATIONS Minister Pat Rabbitte slapped down Barry Cowen today with a Dail jibe that left the Fianna Fail TD furious.

The minister rounded on the Laois/Offaly deputy after he interrupted Mr Rabbitte’s defence of Budget 2013.

"If my name was Cowen," he said, addressing the former Taoiseach Brian Cowen’s brother directly, "I'd stay quiet in this debate."

The comment prompted the Fianna Fail spokesman on social protection to call furiously back across the floor but Mr Rabbitte had made his point.

However, Mr Rabbitte later backtracked and asked the Ceann Comhairle to strike the comment from the record.

He said he knew Brian Cowen when he was a TD and, like his father, he was committed to public service.

“I regret the remark I made and I want to remove it from the record,” he said.

It was one of a number of cutting remarks the Labour TD aimed at the Opposition today as he tried to deflect criticism of yesterday’s austerity measures.

Fianna Fail jobs spokesman Dara Calleary reminded him about his party's pre-election promises, highlighting Labour campaign slogans like 'Protect Child Benefit Vote Labour' and 'Fine Gael: Every Little Hurts'.

But Mr Rabbitte went on the offensive, reminding Mr Calleary it was FF that landed the country in this mess in the first place.

Responding to more taunts about ditched promises, Mr Rabbitte added: "As John Maynard Keynes said, when the facts change I change my mind. What do you do?"

He branded Fianna Fail’s position on the Budget hypocritical.

"It would appear that the leopard doesn't change its spots ... And from where I'm sitting across from Fianna Fail, there's as many spots over there as if you had the measles," he quipped.

He also mocked a Fianna Fail leaflet opposing the property tax, saying: "Who is putting it around, Ceann Comhairle? The very man who negotiated it, Micheal Martin -- the Dalai Lama of Ballinlough ..."

Mr Rabbitte next rounded on Sinn Fein's Mary Lou McDonald who, he said, made less sense economically than the "flaky stuntmen in the Technical Group" - a reference to Independents like Mick Wallace and Luke Ming Flanagan.

Ms McDonald said the cut to the respite care grant was “unfair”, “wrong”, “indefensible” and “indecent”.

“Are you actually that glib? This isn’t a moment for comedy,” she said.

Meanwhile, the Dail was suspended during the ‘Order of Business’ after Independent TD Luke’ Ming’ Flanagan launched a tirade against the Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett.

The Roscommon deputy claimed that his children are being “teased” over Mr Barrett’s criticism of his dress sense.

The Ceann Comhairle said yesterday he wants Mr Flanagan and fellow colourful TD, Mick Wallace, to wear tailored shirts instead of t-shirts.

But Mr Flanagan, who refuses to dress formally, furiously attacked the Ceann Comhairle over the remarks.

“The point I wish to make is, I am asking you to desist from making comments about the way I dress and other members of the house dress to the national media. This morning I got a call from wife... to say my children are being teased.”

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