FINANCE Minister Brian Lenihan, left, was caught up in a war of words with a former government supporter last night as he tried to attack Fine Gael's economic plans.
Mr Lenihan was responding after Green Party Senator Dan Boyle revealed details of a phone call he received from the minister two years ago about a controversial banking bonus.
Mr Boyle claimed Mr Lenihan had hinted he should curb his criticism of Irish Nationwide chief Michael Fingleton's €1m bonus. But Mr Lenihan yesterday said Mr Boyle had "defamed him" by suggesting he was kowtowing to private interests.
Mr Lenihan said it was unlikely he would take the matter further, claiming politically charged comments were made in the heat of battle. He is currently running for re-election in Dublin West while Mr Boyle is trying to win back his seat in Cork South Central.
Mr Boyle had said he received a phone call in March 2009 from Mr Lenihan, who told him the board of Irish Nationwide was not happy with his remarks about Mr Fingleton's bonus.
The row over Mr Lenihan's phone call to Mr Boyle overshadowed his economic policy news conference, where he claimed Fine Gael's plans on the economy were "cooked" up on the basis of focus group analysis.
Mr Lenihan said Fianna Fail's policy of €15bn in cuts and tax increases over the next four years was the only fully costed plan for economic recovery.