Fianna Fáil TD criticises ‘same old tired record from John McGuinness’
Cowen and McGuinness had row at Fianna Fáil party meeting over extension of confidence and supply deal
John McGuinness: he said rank-and-file party members were unhappy with the extension to the deal that underpins the Fine Gael-led minority government
Fianna Fáil TDs exchanged public insults on Wednesday as bitterness between an outspoken party TD and his colleagues intensified.
John McGuinness, a Deputy for Carlow-Kilkenny and former chair of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), and Offaly TD Barry Cowen, the party public expenditure spokesman, had a row at a Fianna Fáil parliamentary party meeting earlier this week.
The pair had robust differences over the extension of the confidence and supply deal, with Mr Cowen suggesting that TDs who go against the party line in public should run as Independents and Mr McGuinness insisting he will not be bullied or harassed.
Mr McGuinness told RTÉ Radio on Wednesday there was a “robust exchange”, and said rank-and-file party members were unhappy with the extension to the deal that underpins the Fine Gael-led minority government.
“It is the same old tired record from John McGuinness. This illusion he tries to create that he is the voice of the members and speaks for the organisation is nonsense.”
Mr Cowen’s comments at the meeting were critical of TDs who publicly voiced personal opinions that were contrary to party policy. They were taken to be aimed at Mr McGuinness, Sligo-Leitrim’s Marc MacSharry, who has also criticised the extension of the confidence and supply deal, and Laois TD Seán Fleming, the current chair of the PAC.
Mr Fleming last week suggested Minister for Health Simon Harris should resign due to overspending at the national children’s hospital. Fianna Fáil has decided not to support a Sinn Féin motion of no confidence in the Minister.
It is understood Mr MacSharry separately took issue with comments Mr Cowen made during a broadcast interview which the Sligo TD took to be critical of him. He raised his objections directly with Mr Cowen, who declined to confirm if there was an exchange.
Mr MacSharry was also called to Micheál Martin’s office in Leinster House earlier this week for a meeting with the party leader, although he declined to divulge its contents. Mr MacSharry said: “I meet the leader regularly to chat about policies and positions.”
Some Fianna Fáil TDs also took issue with Mr Fleming being contacted, after his comments calling on Mr Harris to resign, by Stephen Donnelly, the party’s health spokesman.
One Deputy said Mr Donnelly, who joined Fianna Fáil from the Social Democrats two years ago, had not been in the party a “wet week”.
Some TDs were also critical of Mr Cowen.
Another party source said of Mr McGuinness: “He is like a dog with a bad temper. He will keep biting no matter what you give him.”