Monday 18 December 2017

Maverick politician who shoots straight from the lip

Fiach Kelly

DISSIDENT TD John McGuinness has been a consistent thorn in the side of senior figures in Fianna Fail.

Last year, he famously told Tanaiste Mary Coughlan that she wasn't up to the job of Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment and went on 'The Late Late Show' to express his views.

Mr McGuinness was sacked as a junior minister by Taoiseach Brian Cowen last year when the number of second-tier ministers was reduced from 20 to 15.

He is regarded by fellow backbenchers, even by those who share his views about Mr Cowen, as a maverick and someone who could not credibly lead a push against the Taoiseach.

Allies of Mr Cowen put Mr McGuinness's bitterness down to the fact that the Taoiseach sacked him as Minister for Trade and Commerce last April.

Soon afterwards, the 55-year-old TD publicly revealed conversations he had with Ms Coughlan about her suitability for the enterprise brief.

"I told Mary Coughlan after a meeting in the department which began at 8pm on March 11, 2009, that I had no confidence in her ability," Mr McGuinness said last year.

"I used those words, spoke them clearly and remember them well because I was determined at that time to lay my cards on the table."

Mr McGuinness, who was first elected to the Dail in 1997, previously caused controversy when he described the public service as "so protected by its unions that it has largely become a reactionary, inert mass at the centre of our economy".

During Bertie Ahern's time as Taoiseach, Mr McGuinness was also one of the prime movers behind a backbench campaign calling for a greater input into government policy.

Along with former TD Jim Glennon and Barry Andrews, who is now Children's Minister, Mr McGuinness was the organiser of a letter signed by 16 TDs looking for a backbencher-controlled policy grouping.

But the backbenchers were outfoxed by Mr Ahern, who asserted his grip on the party by proposing new leadership controlled groups to examine policy proposals.

Irish Independent

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