Saturday 24 February 2018

FG leader trying to 'goad us' into early election, say FF TDs

Party hits out at Taoiseach over 'lack of respect'

Michael McGrath. Picture: Tom Burke
Michael McGrath. Picture: Tom Burke
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

Fianna Fáil's most senior TDs have launched a stinging attack on new Taoiseach Leo Varadkar as the fallout from the appointment of Máire Whelan to the Court of Appeal continues.

Several of the party's frontbench spokespeople last night said they believe Mr Varadkar tried to provoke the party into collapsing the Government and forcing an early general election.

Relations between the two main parties soured notably this week as Mr Varadkar and Micheál Martin clashed angrily over the appointment of the former attorney general.

On Thursday, Mr Varadkar moved to ease the tensions by extending an olive branch to Fianna Fáil.

But last night, some of Fianna Fáil's most influential TDs said they believe an early general election is now far more likely than was the case under Enda Kenny.

Fianna Fáil's finance spokesperson Michael McGrath said he believed Mr Varadkar was trying to "goad us" into forcing an election.

"This is a new Taoiseach and we are in a different place now. It's important we keep cool heads as a party," Mr McGrath told the Irish Independent.

"It did feel at times during the week that the Taoiseach was goading us into causing a general election.

"Nobody would have been rewarded for causing a general election that the public do not want."

Read More: 'You don't get anything for nothing' - Varadkar's new slogan

Limerick TD and former minister Willie O'Dea said he now believes the country is close to being in an "election-type scenario" as a result of the row this week.


"A type of swagger crept in. Leo was very provocative and it's very unhealthy for relations," Mr O'Dea said.

"Our grassroots are saying to us: 'Why don't you pull the plug?" he added.

Dublin Fingal TD Darragh O'Brien accused Mr Varadkar and Fine Gael ministers of behaving in an arrogant manner.

"The Fine Gael arrogance was dripping from every pore this week," Mr O'Brien said.

"Leo is extremely headstrong - he feels he is right even when he's wrong.

"Things will have to change. He needs to show some respect and courtesy and realise that he is a minority Government and is only in office because of Fianna Fáil."

Barry Cowen, the party's housing spokesperson, said Mr Varadkar's style is completely different than his predecessor.

"It's clear he is somewhat unpredictable," the Offaly TD said.

Speaking in Brussels on Thursday, Mr Varadkar reached out to Fianna Fáil and pledged to do more over the coming weeks to mend relations between the two parties.

But he insisted that Fine Gael did not have to consult with Fianna Fáil about appointing judges under the Confidence and Supply Arrangement.

Neither did he apologise for the handling of Ms Whelan's appointment.

While welcoming the olive branch, Fianna Fáil's Roscommon deputy Eugene Murphy said "a lot of damage has been done" as a result of the controversy.

"Respect is so important but Fianna Fáil genuinely feels it hasn't been respected," Mr Murphy said.

Irish Independent

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