Mathews and Kenny 'cleared the air' with 6.30am chat


TAOISEACH ENDA Kenny said he and Fine Gael TD Peter Mathews “cleared the air” at a 6.30am meeting scheduled so the outspoken backbencher could explain why he provoked a voting defeat for the Government.

The meeting took place early on Thursday morning after the Coalition unexpectedly lost a vote at the Oireachtas finance committee on Wednesday night. Mr Mathews had prompted the vote by insisting Central Bank governor Patrick Honohan be asked to attend a committee meeting before the promissory note payment deadline .

Speaking in Chicago yesterday, Mr Kenny stressed that Fine Gael TDs and Senators had signed up to certain “conditions”. He said his discussions with any party member were private, but added: “Let’s just say we cleared the air”.

Mr Kenny said all Fine Gael Oireachtas members were entitled to have their say at parliamentary party meetings. “Obviously, people who sign on for membership of the party do so under a set of conditions. We’re facing a set of challenges for the country . . . and we need all hands on deck.”

Mr Mathews yesterday insisted he and Mr Kenny parted on “warm terms” after he was summoned to the 6.30am meeting.

The outspoken Dublin South deputy yesterday suggested the fact that he and Mr Kenny were the same age, 60, contributed towards their relationship, which he assessed as still good.

“The Taoiseach and I totally respect one another. We’re the same vintage, age wise; we grew up with the same values. I’ve an enormous political respect for him and I think he holds me in good regard.”

Asked if they had concluded the early-morning meeting on good terms, Mr Mathews said: “Absolutely. I always have been on very, very sound warm terms with the Taoiseach. I respect him as a professional politician, as a human being, and hold him in the highest regard.” Mr Mathews described the controversy, which embarrassed the Government, as an “exaggerated media distraction”.

Mr Mathews had submitted a letter to committee chairman Alex White of Labour, his constituency colleague, insisting that Mr Honohan attend a meeting of the finance committee within 10 days. The letter was also signed by 16 other members of the 27-person committee.

He wanted Mr Honohan to appear before the deadline for paying €3.1 billion in promissory note debt. Other representatives of the governing parties argued a date should not be specified. Mr Mathews voted with his colleagues against his own motion but the Government side lost the vote.

Events took a farcical twist when Fine Gael TDs Liam Twomey and Kieran O’Donnell were locked out of the committee room after they had gone looking for other Government deputies to make up the numbers. The doors of committee rooms are routinely locked when a vote is being taken.

It remains unclear if Mr Mathews will be punished by the party as a result of the row. A Fine Gael spokesman said any disciplinary procedures that did or did not take place were internal and could not be commented upon.

Chairman of the parliamentary party Charlie Flanagan echoed the Taoiseach’s comments. “We are in difficult and challenging times and its essential that everybody in the team is playing in the one direction,” Mr Flanagan said.