Monday 23 October 2017

Cowen accused of 'disgraceful' behaviour at FF event

Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

TAOISEACH Brian Cowen, was berated by a member of Fianna Fail's national executive for his "disgraceful" body language and behaviour at an internal party meeting in Cork last year.

Jerry Beades accused Mr Cowen of turning up half-an-hour late to the meeting at the Silversprings Hotel in April 2009 and of "portraying total disinterest" in the proceedings.

In a letter of complaint to the Taoiseach, Mr Beades pointed out that Fianna Fail delegates had travelled from all over the country to attend the national executive meeting that was due to start at 11am on a Saturday morning.

He claimed that Mr Cowen turned up half-an-hour late and then broke for lunch for an hour and 45 minutes, after which he allegedly proceeded through the agenda at "record speed".

Mr Beades wrote: "Your body language and behaviour during the meeting were a disgrace, from playing with your mobile phone and running your hands through your hair to covering your face.

"You portrayed total disinterest in the issues and a complete lack of respect for those in attendance. Those hard-working party members had been dragged down to Cork at their own expense, including election candidates and people supporting them who lost a complete day on a fine Saturday on a fool's errand."

The national executive meeting was held the day after the wedding of a daughter of the education minister, Batt O'Keeffe, in Cork, at which Mr Cowen was a guest.

The Taoiseach went on to fulfil a number of other engagements before attending the national executive meeting the following day.

Mr Beades, who has clashed with senior party figures in the past, claimed that he wrote to the Taoiseach on April 21 to express his anger.

The emergence of that letter this weekend will further embarrass the Taoiseach in a week which saw him fending off criticism of his disastrous performance on the Morning Ireland radio programme.

The response to the broadcast forced Mr Cowen to deny speculation that he was drunk or hungover after a late night "singalong" at a party think-in, and he blamed his croaking tone voice on "hoarseness".

However, Mary Hanafin, the minister for tourism, arts and culture, later said that people "felt insulted" by his interview.

Mr Beades said this weekend that Brian Cowen "had to go" as leader of Fianna Fail.

"He has lost the respect of the people," he said, adding that the likely successors included Mary Hanafin and Brian Lenihan.

Mr Beades is a frequent dissenter from the party line. He has clashed with Mr Cowen before, most recently in February, when he publicly called on the Taoiseach to sack six of his government ministers, including Noel Dempsey, the transport minister.

That call led to a high-profile spat between Mr Dempsey and Mr Beades at a subsequent national executive meeting.

Mr Beades was closely associated with Bertie Ahern, Mr Cowen's predecessor.

He is also a long-standing critic of financial institutions and the Financial Regulator and is a founding member of Friends of Banking, a lobby group for dissatisfied banking customers.

He has also campaigned against the registered wage agreements that have fixed the wages paid to builders, a subject which he wanted to raise with Mr Cowen at the meeting in April of last year.

In his letter, he also accused Mr Cowen of "mixing up" the registered wage agreements with the minimum wage.

He called on the Taoiseach to suspend the registered agreements, which fixed labour rates at €14 to €23 an hour, compared with starting scales equivalent to €6 in Northern Ireland.

The agenda also included ratifying candidates for the upcoming local elections and included a presentation by Sean Dorgan, the general-secretary, on how to reconnect the party headquarters with the grass roots.

The letter to Mr Cowen concluded: "My anger is fuelled by your apparent complete lack of understanding for (sic) the issue, coupled with your conduct at the meeting and waste of people's time and resources at a crucial period for the party with six weeks to go to elections.

"It was a disgrace to attend a meeting of zero worth, where important items on the agenda were rubbished."

Mr Beades added that his anger was shared by a number of other delegates.

"As a result of their comments, I felt I had to write this letter. I cannot sit back and see our party disintegrate before our very eyes," he wrote.

A Fianna Fail spokesman said: "These issues have been dealt with and we have nothing further to add."

Sunday Independent

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