FF’s Cowen, McGuinness clash over confidence-and-supply deal

Offaly TD criticises some colleagues for speaking in ‘personal capacity’ at interviews

Barry Cowen (left), the spokesman on public expenditure, and John McGuinness (right), the outspoken deputy for Carlow-Kilkenny, clashed in front of colleagues at the weekly Fianna Fáil parliamentary party meeting. File photographs: The Irish Times

Barry Cowen (left), the spokesman on public expenditure, and John McGuinness (right), the outspoken deputy for Carlow-Kilkenny, clashed in front of colleagues at the weekly Fianna Fáil parliamentary party meeting. File photographs: The Irish Times

 

Two senior Fianna Fáil TDs have engaged in a serious row at a private party meeting over issues such as the extension of the confidence-and-supply deal.

Barry Cowen, the spokesman on public expenditure, and John McGuinness, the outspoken deputy for Carlow-Kilkenny, clashed in front of colleagues at the weekly parliamentary party meeting.

Mr Cowen, a TD for Offaly, criticised some colleagues for speaking in a “personal capacity” in recent interviews on subjects such as the extension of the confidence-and-supply deal, which underpins the Fine Gael-led minority government.

His remarks were understood to be aimed at Mr McGuinness, Sligo-Leitrim TD Marc MacSharry and Laois TD Seán Fleming, the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee.

Mr McGuinness and Mr MacSharry spoke out against the extension of the confidence-and-supply, which was struck in December. Mr Fleming last week called on Minister for Health Simon Harris to resign because of overspending on the National Children’s Hospital.

Speaking in ‘personal capacity’

Mr Cowen took issue with TDs speaking in a “personal capacity” and against the party line on such issues, leading to a row with Mr McGuinness.

Mr McGuinness insisted he would express his views inside and outside the parliamentary party room and said he would not be “bullied, intimidated… [or] embarrassed”.

He said TDs and Senators were being told nothing about how the party is being run, and said nobody had yet seen a party report on the lengthy talks between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil which led to the confidence-and-supply extension.

Mr Cowen said that anyone continually speaking in a personal capacity would be better off standing in elections as an Independent, not under the Fianna Fáil banner.

He cited an episode before Christmas where Mr McGuinness went on radio to criticise the confidence-and-supply extension, with the comments later played back to party leader Micheál Martin during a separate interview he gave to defend the move.

Mr Cowen said Mr McGuinness was undermining the party leader with such behaviour. Mr Martin, who was at the meeting on Tuesday night in Leinster House, challenged Mr McGuinness’s characterisation of the extension as “cowardice and surrender”.