Tuesday 20 August 2019

Micheál Martin in touch with Cowens as ex-Taoiseach remains in hospital

Serious illness: Former Taoiseach Brian Cowen is in a Dublin hospital. Photo: Arthur Carron
Serious illness: Former Taoiseach Brian Cowen is in a Dublin hospital. Photo: Arthur Carron
Hugh O'Connell

Hugh O'Connell

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has been in touch with the family of former Taoiseach Brian Cowen, who is being treated in hospital for a serious illness.

Mr Martin, who succeeded Mr Cowen as party leader in 2011, passed on his best wishes to the Cowen family in recent days.

Mr Martin has so far declined to comment publicly on Mr Cowen's situation but a senior Fianna Fáil source said: "Like all of us he wishes Brian well. He wants to respect his privacy as well."

The lack of public comment from many in Fianna Fáil is reflective of the party's desire to respect the wishes of the former Taoiseach's family, who have asked for privacy.

Several Fianna Fáil TDs have gone on the record to wish their former parliamentary colleague well, as have several members of the Government, including Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, who on Friday wished Mr Cowen "a speedy recovery".

Mr Cowen (59) fell seriously ill on Thursday and remains in a Dublin hospital where he is receiving treatment.

Some Fianna Fáil TDs have also expressed anger at the online abuse of Mr Cowen, who was Taoiseach between 2008 and 2011, posted by some users on social media websites in recent days.

Darragh O'Brien, the party's housing spokesman and a friend of Mr Cowen, said the comments had been "absolutely disgusting". The party's technology spokesman, James Lawless, said some of the comments were "vile and abhorrent" and told the Irish Independent that social media platforms needed to do more to tackle online abuse.

"Social media can be a cesspit and is an easy outlet for those with little to say in the real world.

"Such comments are vile and abhorrent and the online equivalent of the school-yard bully who ends up with no friends themselves.

"Robust political engagement is healthy and needed but comments lacking in basic humanity towards someone who is no longer a public figure fall well below the bar of decency and into the domain of hate speech."

He added: "The online platforms have to step up too and their days of masquerading as mere carriers of the message are numbered."

Independent Alliance Minister Finian McGrath, who supported a Fianna Fáil government in which Mr Cowen was a cabinet minister in the 2000s, was the latest Government minister to send his good wishes to the family yesterday.

"Sorry to hear that Brian Cowen is not well. Best wishes to Mary and the girls. Thinking of you all," Mr McGrath wrote on Twitter.

Mr Cowen is married to Mary and they have two daughters, Sinead and Meadhbh.

His brother Barry Cowen succeeded him as a TD for Offaly in the 2011 General Election.

Irish Independent

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