Hanafin's refusal to resign 'indefensible'


MINISTER'S STANCE:MINISTER FOR Tourism Mary Hanafin has been accused of taking a “bizarre and indefensible” stance by refusing to resign from Cabinet despite her criticisms of the Taoiseach.

Fine Gael spokesman on justice Alan Shatter said her continuing presence in the Government was undermining the principle of collective responsibility.

“Minister Hanafin is remaining in Cabinet despite her announced ‘mental reservations’ in relation to the Taoiseach,” he said in a statement.

Speaking to reporters earlier, Ms Hanafin insisted her refusal to declare in advance how she would be voting on the motion of confidence in Mr Cowen as leader of Fianna Fáil had not damaged her credibility.

She said yesterday she voted against Mr Cowen in Tuesday night’s ballot and that  Mr Cowen “knew exactly” where she stood on the issue beforehand.

She said the vote was not about Mr Cowen’s ability as Taoiseach, but rather his ability to lead the party into a general election.

She said she had confidence in Mr Cowen’s leadership abilities and that she did not feel she should resign from the Cabinet as Micheál Martin had.

“I spoke to the Taoiseach [on Tuesday] night and I didn’t offer my resignation nor did he ask for it. We both indicated that we were very happy I would continue doing the job in Government that I do.”

Colleagues had said Ms Hanafin told the meeting she was “going to vote in accordance with the conversation she had with the Taoiseach last week”. This was despite saying on Monday that she would make her views known to the parliamentary party before the ballot.

“I think my views were known and the Taoiseach had asked for a secret ballot – so I did it that way,” Ms Hanafin said yesterday. “My credibility is [intact]. My Taoiseach knew exactly what I was doing, which is why I stood up and said it.

“Certainly other colleagues knew what I was doing but I chose not to make it public.”

She was not in the business of “influencing other people”, the Minister said. “I’m not sure if I had said anything else at [the meeting], or indeed earlier, whether it would have influenced other people but I didn’t want it to,” she said.

“I’ve seen in the party where this type of attitude did prevail with senior ministers trying to influence other people. That’s not the way I wanted to do it.” Ms Hanafin insisted she was never going to be party to a heave against Mr Cowen after he decided to put down a motion.

“It was a motion of confidence, it wasn’t a leadership contest. It wasn’t about coming out in favour of one person or the other. If it had been then I might have been active in actually canvassing for a person, but it wasn’t.”