Tuesday 16 January 2018

Hogan denies forced media silence

Treaty 'Yes' campaign fears charges backlash


The country's most unpopular government minister Phil Hogan flatly denied yesterday that he has been kept off the airwaves during the Fiscal Treaty Referendum campaign over fears that references to the unpopular household and water charges could sink the 'Yes' vote.

"I'll decide when I go on the media, not you," Mr Hogan said when we caught up with him in the village of Callan, in the heart of his Kilkenny constituency, in the company of Fine Gael councillor Tom Maher.

According to the Sunday Independent Millward Brown Lansdowne poll Mr Hogan has the distinction of being the worst performer in the Government with 15 per cent of those polled singling him out as the least effective member.

The next 'least effective' minister was James Reilly at 12 per cent and Taoiseach Enda Kenny got 11 per cent.

But when quizzed yesterday as to whether he was being deliberately kept out of the media spotlight Mr Hogan deftly avoided the question.

"You see where I am now. I'm in my constituency. I was in Cork, I was in Westmeath. I was in several counties, so you're obviously misinformed.

"If you read the diary of events I've had for the last few weeks, you would see you're very misinformed," he said as he strode up the main street in Callan without stopping to talk to a single soul. Asked what the reception had been like for him on the doorsteps of Kilkenny, Mr Hogan bluntly insisted it had been "excellent".

Questioned on how this could be the case -- given the hugely unpopular household and water charges, he replied: "The reality of this country is we're in a bailout, we're part of the EU-IMF agreement and I'm sure that everybody realises there are difficult decisions to be made.

"People are suffering difficulties with their finances, but the country is in a very difficult space and that's why I'll be advocating a 'Yes' vote on Thursday to make sure we have access to whatever support we need to bring us back to economic recovery."

Asked for his response to the findings of the Sunday Independent Millward Brown national opinion poll which shows him to be the least popular government minister, Mr Hogan didn't appear overly surprised. "I've a very difficult job that I've been given to do by the Taoiseach and I'm honoured to do that.

"I'm a member of the Cabinet implementing policies that have to be implemented to bring us back to economic recovery with the full support of the Government," he said.

Having met Mr Hogan on the main street at 12.55pm, we followed him to the local SuperValu supermarket where he engaged in a brief conversation with store manager Dermot McCabe and constituent Mary Barrett.

Sunday Independent

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