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Monday 11 December 2017

Lenihan and Cowen in firing line as Noonan finds his feet

New Fine Gael finance spokesman Michael Noonan at Leinster House yesterday. TOM BURKE
New Fine Gael finance spokesman Michael Noonan at Leinster House yesterday. TOM BURKE

Barry Duggan

NEW Fine Gael finance spokesman Michael Noonan has launched his first broadside at Finance Minister Brian Lenihan, describing him as "the first mate on the Titanic".

And while the veteran politician said Mr Lenihan had the courage to take difficult decisions, he said Taoiseach Brian Cowen was "a bit of a disaster".

Mr Noonan was appointed to the finance brief in Enda Kenny's frontbench reshuffle on Thursday and is taking over from defeated leadership hopeful Richard Bruton, who was demoted to the enterprise portfolio.

Providing a taster of what to expect in the coming months as he marks Mr Lenihan, the political bruiser from Limerick described the Cabinet as "detached from the public completely".

Mr Noonan said Mr Lenihan was a good politician and minister, but also compared him to the first mate on the Titanic.

"If he had a captain and a crew, he would be a great guy, but the way it is at the moment, he is pretty much on his own," he said in an interview yesterday.

"He has a very, very tired Cabinet around him and they don't seem capable of leading their departments anymore."



Worrying

But for a finance spokesman, Mr Noonan showed a worrying command of detail when he wrongly said Mr Lenihan was only brought into Cabinet two years ago when Mr Cowen took over as Taoiseach.

"They are in a situation now where they haven't a shot left in their locker. Brian Lenihan is new to the job. He only came into the Cabinet after Brian Cowen was made Taoiseach two years ago," he said on Limerick radio station Live 95fm.

However, Mr Lenihan has been in Cabinet since June 2007, when former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern appointed him Justice Minister.

"If he (Mr Lenihan) had a team around him, he would be very effective, but he is hampered by the fact that he has a team around him that are worn out from office and from being detached from the public completely. Of course, the Taoiseach himself is a bit of a disaster," Mr Noonan said.

The 67-year-old said he was in good form and health and was looking forward to tackling his new role.

"I hope I have better judgment than when I was younger. There are plenty of policy differences between Fine Gael and Fianna Fail at the moment. There are plenty of issues that I will take on and I will do that."

He said there was a mixture of young and old on the new frontbench. "Most of the bright young men that we had there previously are back in place, people like Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney. If you look at the mix, the mix is quiet good."

Irish Independent

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