Monday 19 February 2018

'Big' Phil lets the side down with press conference gaffe

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

OFTEN talked of as the real leader of Fine Gael and the ultimate spinmaster, 'Big' Phil Hogan was caught out badly yesterday at the party's opening press conference.

The Carlow-Kilkenny TD has long been Enda Kenny's right-hand man and was instrumental in seeing off last summer's heave.

The 50-year-old was appointed director of elections in the aftermath of the heave and has been marshalling the party's troops for the election -- which makes yesterday's incident even more embarrassing.

It was the first day of Fine Gael's campaign, but Mr Hogan's ill-fated attempt to shut the press conference down yesterday overshadowed what should have been a triumphant launch.

Mr Hogan has been a member of the Dail since 1989, after serving on Kilkenny County Council and briefly in the Seanad.

After holding a number of opposition frontbench positions, he was appointed junior minister in the Department of Finance in December 1994 when Fine Gael entered government as part of the rainbow coalition with Labour and Democratic Left.

But he was forced to resign from his position only three months later for leaking an advance copy of the Budget to a journalist.

He was appointed Fine Gael director of organisation in the run-up to the disastrous 2002 General Election, when the party dropped 23 seats and only returned with 31 seats.

He contested the party leadership after Michael Noonan resigned, but lost out to Mr Kenny. However, he was then appointed spokesman for Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

He was expected to bring in a running mate in his constituency at the last election, but failed to do so.

Mr Hogan is under pressure to improve on that this time around, and Fine Gael is targeting at least a gain of one seat, and maybe two, in Carlow-Kilkenny.

Irish Independent

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