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McEntee in battle with Martin over Brexit role

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Fighting back: Helen McEntee hit out at comments by Micheál Martin over her Brexit role. Photo: David Conachy

Fighting back: Helen McEntee hit out at comments by Micheál Martin over her Brexit role. Photo: David Conachy

Fighting back: Helen McEntee hit out at comments by Micheál Martin over her Brexit role. Photo: David Conachy

Donald Tusk has praised European Affairs Minister Helen McEntee after Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin claimed her role in Brexit negotiations was overplayed.

"I know how diligently (Helen McEntee) has worked on #Brexit and all European affairs for her country," the former European Council president said on Twitter last night.

"She is an exceptional diplomat and I look forward to working with her in the future."

Ms McEntee also hit back at claims by the Fianna Fáil leader that she was not centrally involved in Brexit negotiations.

On Independent.ie's 'Floating Voter' podcast, Mr Martin said Fine Gael "overplayed" its role in Brexit negotiations and specifically took issue with Ms McEntee's role.

He was responding to questions about Fianna Fáil's experience in dealing with international negotiations.

"Take Helen McEntee for a second, Helen McEntee had no experience going into the job," he said.

"She was mental health first. I had dealings with Helen when she was in mental health," he added.

Mr Martin went on to say the minister did an "OK" job during Brexit but was not "directly involved in the negotiations".

Ms McEntee responded by asking how Mr Martin would know how much involvement she had during Brexit talks.

"He's had zero involvement in the process nor has he travelled the length & breadth of the EU with me," she wrote on Twitter.

"The last thing he & his party negotiated with the EU was Ireland's IMF bailout after they wrecked the economy."

During the election campaign, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said Ms McEntee and Tánaiste Simon Coveney were the only two people guaranteed to retain their portfolios should Fine Gael be returned to government.

Yesterday, Mr Varadkar said: "I just think that Micheál Martin was wrong, that what he said was bang out of order."

He said Ms McEntee was with him at every European Council meeting for the past two and a half years, at every meeting with European Commission Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier in Dublin and Brussels and all the preparatory meetings.

Health Minister Simon Harris also weighed in, saying Mr Martin's "mask slips" and branding his comments as "ignorant and arrogant".

"Helen plays a key role in protecting Ireland's interests from Brexit. She is highly regarded across the EU," he added.

"So it's just wrong," he said.

Mr Martin praised his own Brexit spokesperson Lisa Chambers during his interview with 'Floating Voter'.

"I think everyone accepts Lisa Chambers has been a very effective Brexit spokesperson and she's done well," he said.

"She engaged with all the ministers and officials and with our own diplomatic team, as I have on Brexit," he added.

Mr Martin said the EU should have facilitated Theresa May more in an effort to avoid a situation where Boris Johnson was able to oust her.

He also criticised the Government's "lack of domestic preparation".

Separately, he attacked the Central Bank, which he said wanted everyone to be renters.

Irish Independent


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