Ring rounds on ‘privileged’ young Fine Gael TDs who seek changes at Cabinet

Minister of State says ‘five-a-side gang’ want ‘more cuts and more hardship’

 Michael Ring TD: “It’s fine for some of these people coming from privileged backgrounds and with plenty of money; they don’t have any understanding of how people are hurting on the ground in middle Ireland.”Photograph: Keith Heneghan/Phocus

Michael Ring TD: “It’s fine for some of these people coming from privileged backgrounds and with plenty of money; they don’t have any understanding of how people are hurting on the ground in middle Ireland.”Photograph: Keith Heneghan/Phocus

Sat, Jun 7, 2014, 01:05

Minister of State for Sport Michael Ring has criticised members of the so-called “five-a-side gang” of young Fine Gael TDs, some of whom are demanding changes at Cabinet following the party’s poor local election showing.

Mr Ring said the “privileged” group of first-time TDs had previously called for budgetary cuts greater than the €2.5 billion announced last year and should not be surprised that Fine Gael suffered electoral losses as a result of austerity policies. “It’s fine for some of these people coming from privileged backgrounds and with plenty of money; they don’t have any understanding of how people are hurting on the ground in middle Ireland,” Mr Ring said. “These guys wanted to give us more cuts. These same guys are complaining about the results of the election.”

Members of the “five-a-side gang”, so named because they reputedly discussed party policy when they were officially having a weekly soccer match, include Brendan Griffin from Kerry South and Pat Deering from Carlow-Kilkenny, who have recently called for immediate changes at Cabinet level. Others have denied demanding a radical reshuffle.

Mr Ring rounded on the younger TDs at a recent Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting, calling them “bucks” who “wanted more cuts and wanted more hardship”. He accused them of advocating cuts of €3.1 billion rather than €2.5 billion.

Yesterday he told The Irish Times that voters would have punished the party even more if such an adjustment had been implemented. “They wanted it both ways. The equation is very simple. We got hurt because of what we had to do. If we’d done more we would’ve been wiped out altogether.”

The young Fine Gael TDs have been dismissed as “austerity junkies” by some of their Labour counterparts. Dublin South East TD Eoghan Murphy and Galway West’s Paul Connaughton are also said to be included in the “five-a-side gang”. Noel Harrington from Cork South West and Seán Conlan from Cavan-Monaghan are also included, as is Kildare North’s Anthony Lawlor.