Tuesday 22 October 2019

Cowen hits back at Varadkar jibe, says 'get Brexit deal'

Fianna Fail Spokesperson on Public Expenditure and Reform Barry Cowen. Photo: Collins
Fianna Fail Spokesperson on Public Expenditure and Reform Barry Cowen. Photo: Collins
Jody Corcoran

Jody Corcoran

Fianna Fail's Barry Cowen has rounded on Leo Varadkar after the Taoiseach last night said Fine Gael was better than Fianna Fail to negotiate Brexit.

An angry Mr Cowen referred to the legacies of former Fianna Fail leaders, Albert Reynolds and Bertie Ahern, and told Mr Varadkar he would be better off trying to secure a deal on Brexit.

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At the Fine Gael Presidential Dinner in Dublin last night, Mr Varadkar spoke of his party having the "best team" to lead the country.

This was the second time in recent weeks that the Taoiseach praised his "team" and dismissed the calibre of the Fianna Fail front bench.

Mr Varadkar said: "If we had a Fianna Fail-led government now and they were involved in Brexit negotiations now, who could they send who could match Simon Coveney or Helen McEntee?"

It was this comment which seemed to particularly irk Mr Cowen. Last night he said: "Albert Reynolds did the Downing Street Declaration. Bertie Ahern did the Good Friday Agreement.

"The Taoiseach would be better placed trying to emulate the legacies of Mr Reynolds and Mr Ahern by securing a Brexit deal that protects the hard-won peace and prosperity, rather than cheap shots against those in Fianna Fail who have afforded him space, time and political backing at such a crucial moment affecting the long-term prospects of our country."

Mr Varadkar last night also said that by the time of the next general election his Government "will have secured a Brexit deal or, if not, will have guided the country through the worst of no deal."

He added: "When it comes to managing the economy and the public finances, dealing with really difficult industrial relations issues with politeness, competence and firmness - who do they have as good as Paschal Donohoe?

"I could say the same for all our ministers, but you get the point.

"When you look at the front benches of other parties, they just don't have the teams to match ours.

"For some, they are lining out the same team they had in the 1990s - we refresh and renew.

"We have the team, we have the ideas, and we have the track record. Tonight, we should remember the difference between our party and Fianna Fail."

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