Thursday 22 March 2018

Leo, Simon and Frances all failures as ministers - Micheál

Leo Varadkar ‘walked away’ from the health portfolio, says FF leader Micheál Martin. Photo: Tom Burke
Leo Varadkar ‘walked away’ from the health portfolio, says FF leader Micheál Martin. Photo: Tom Burke
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has taken aim at the three potential successors to Enda Kenny, arguing that they have failed to leave significant stamps on their Cabinet portfolios.

Mr Martin believes Leo Varadkar walked away from Health, Simon Coveney left Agriculture on the floor and Frances Fitzgerald has not engaged with the major issues in Justice.

With many in Fine Gael believing that the Taoiseach's departure from office is at best months away, the Fianna Fáil leader indicated that a change of personnel won't derail the deal that allowed for the formation of this Government.

However, he told the Irish Independent that Fine Gael TDs who undermine Mr Kenny's leadership are not "boxing straight with the people", since they agreed he was good enough for the job just a few months ago. He said Mr Kenny's departure "could cause its own tensions", but "ultimately it's a matter for Fine Gael who their leader is".

He declined to declare a preference from among the three frontrunners for the position, but criticised each when asked his view on their performance in Government.

In relation to Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar, Mr Martin said he was surprised the Dublin West TD did not retain the Health portfolio after the General Election.

Asked if he felt Mr Varadkar had "walked away" from the often controversial department, he replied: "I think he essentially did, yes. I was surprised. I thought he was showing enthusiasm before this.

"He said he wanted to go back but didn't hang around too long or make much effort to go back into Health. I think his record wasn't strong in Health."

Mr Martin said the "jury is out on Leo" and noted that he had tried to "undermine our negotiation team and our position in the aftermath of the (government) talks with some of his commentary, which I don't think was balanced or fair".

"But I think he needs to make his mark and leave a legacy in the department he's in now. I don't think he did that in his previous two departments."

And Mr Martin said his constituency rival Simon Coveney had "left Agriculture at a time when it's on the floor.

"There's a lot of angst within agriculture. There was a lot of talk about getting rid of the (milk) quotas and it was going to be a golden era for agriculture and there's going to be a difficult one year but after that everything is going to bounce.

"Even now ministers are saying there's going to be a bounce in agriculture prices. I think Simon got out in time from agriculture because a lot of beef farmers and dairy farmers are very angsty about it," Mr Martin said.

However, he added that he hopes Mr Coveney's housing plan does end the homeless crisis - even though Fianna Fáil "worry about the implementation side of it".

He says Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald took over "a very volatile situation" at the Department of Justice in the wake of Alan Shatter's resignation.

But he added: "She inherited a very messy department. Now things have calmed down - but whether calming down meant just staying inactive for a while and not getting engaged because there are huge issues in Justice and not least the reforms that are required from the Garda Inspectorate report, which are quite comprehensive."

Irish Independent

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