Sunday 22 September 2019

Standing ovation for Frances Fitzgerald as she returns to Leinster House

Frances Fitzgerald Photo: Arthur Carron
Frances Fitzgerald Photo: Arthur Carron
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Former tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald received a standing ovation from Fine Gael colleagues in Leinster House tonight.

The Dublin Mid-West TD made a surprise appearance at a party meeting where she thanked TDs and senators for their support in recent days.

Ms Fitzgerald said she wanted to attend the meeting despite the events of recent days because she “appreciated” the efforts colleagues had made to defend her.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he expects Ms Fitzgerald to return to a high level of Irish politics once she is vindicated at the Charleton Tribunal.

It was expected that Mr Varadkar could face a backlash at the meeting for his handling of the row over the treatment of Garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe, however there was no dissent.

He told the Fine Gael gathering that he had not engaged in “a game of poker” with Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin.

“I was showing personal and party loyalty to a colleague,” he said, adding: “As long as I’m party leader I’ll stand by you all.”

Ms Fitzgerald thanked the Taoiseach for showing her a “sense of fairness” and “due process” throughout the controversy.

She said she was “totally honoured” to be in Fine Gael in any capacity.

Tributes were paid from the floor by TDs and senators, including Health Minister Simon Harris who views the ex-tanaiste as his mentor.

Sources say one of the stand-out contributions was from junior minister Catherine Byrne.

She said there three days when she felt most proud to be a member of Fine Gael. One was when Enda Kenny was elected Taoiseach and the second was when Leo Varadkar was elected Taoiseach.

Her third moment was last week when parliamentary party watched Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy defend Ms Fitzgerald on Prime Time before the “whole party” united in standing up for her.

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