Wednesday 13 December 2017

'Witch hunt' into leak of extraordinary FF Facebook group posts by Brian Cowen's wife

Brian Cowen with former cabinet colleagues Micheal Martin and Mary Hanafin
Brian Cowen with former cabinet colleagues Micheal Martin and Mary Hanafin
Mary Hanafin
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

At least 10 Fianna Fáil members have been ejected from a social media forum amid suspicions they may have "leaked" details of a series of controversial posts by the wife of former Taoiseach Brian Cowen.

It emerged this week that Mary Cowen used a private Fianna Fáil members page on Facebook to launch an extraordinary attack on former Education Minister Mary Hanafin.

In a series of posts, copies of which were obtained by the Irish Independent, Ms Cowen warned party leader Micheál Martin to "watch his back" in relation to Ms Hanafin's revival within the party. Ms Cowen, who is still an active member of the party, also criticised remarks made by Ms Hanafin following the party's Ard Fheis.

The Dún Laoghaire election candidate claimed that she has been approached by grassroots members encouraging her to "influence" party policy. But Ms Cowen took major issue with the remarks on the Facebook page, which has almost 1,400 members: "Have just read the Irish Independent and I see an article about Mary Hanifin (sic) stating that Fianna Fáil members have called on her to influence party policy."

The Facebook post continues, claiming that Ms Hanafin is "not elected yet and she is running the party".

And it adds: "Micheál Martin better watch his back as there wouldn't be to (sic) much loyalty there!!!!!!"

Brian and Mary Cowen. Photo: Julien Behal/ PA
Brian and Mary Cowen. Photo: Julien Behal/ PA

The posts by Ms Cowen were later deleted after she learned that the remarks had been picked up by the media.

Neither Ms Cowen or Ms Hanafin have commented on the row.

A Fianna Fáil spokesman said that the party has "no role in the administration of the Facebook group which is currently subject to media reports".

But it has emerged that administrators of the group have ejected at least 10 members from the forum amid suspicion they were behind the alleged leak to this newspaper.

"There is clearly a witch hunt on to find the leaker," one Fianna Fáil Oireachtas member said last night.

In a series of posts on Wednesday night, moderators of the site said the individuals were removed from the page while there was an "investigation".

"Some members will be removed from the page pending further investigation," a message stated.

Fianna Fáil sources believe Ms Cowen's attack on Ms Hanafin stems from the former TD's decision to oppose a vote of confidence in Mr Cowen in 2011.

Mr Martin also voted against his predecessor.

Neither Ms Cowen or Ms Hanafin have spoken at length since the vote, according to the same sources.

Ms Hanafin, who is contesting the Dún Laoighaire constituency alongside her council colleague Cormac Devlin, has infuriated many frontbench TDs in recent months following her comments about the party.

However, several deputies privately agree wholeheartedly with her claims that the party should not rule out Fine Gael as a potential coalition partner.

Irish Independent

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