TD and finance adviser booed at public meeting

 

FIANNA FÁIL Galway West TD Frank Fahey has said he is “very disappointed” at the reception received by the Minister for Finance’s special economic adviser at a public meeting in Galway earlier this week.

However Mr Fahey said he was not worried by the heated response from the floor during the gathering in Ballybrit on Monday night, attended by several hundred people.

The former minister for the marine was heckled and booed by a number in attendance, as was Dr Alan Ahearne during his presentation on the state of the economy.

Dr Ahearne, who is on secondment from NUI Galway to advise the Minister for Finance, “did not deserve this treatment and will probably never want to speak again at such a forum”, Mr Fahey said yesterday.

Dr Ahearne told The Irish Timeslast night that “one of the functions of an economist is to inform the public debate”, and Monday night was one of those events.

Mr Fahey said Dr Ahearne and chairman Pádraig Ó Céidigh were invited in an independent and non-political capacity. There was tight Garda security at the meeting, which lasted over two hours.

Before the meeting started, Mr Fahey said he had not requested the Garda presence and that everyone was welcome, including members of the Galway Unites Against Cuts campaign, who had staged a protest outside.

Supporters of Free Education for Everyone (Fee) Galway attended, as did business representatives, several local Fianna Fáíl politicians and supporters from Mr Fahey’s constituency.

Mr Fahey outlined his view of the economic difficulties and acknowledged mistakes had been made by a government of which he was part and for which he apologised, he said. Mr Fahey was clearly shaken when he was booed from the floor, although he was also applauded. In his presentation, Dr Ahearne said that a 13 per cent growth in exports would have a significant impact on economic recovery and would be the “engine that drives the train” out of recession. During a sometimes heated question-and-answer session, several participants criticised Government policy, wage cuts and reductions in spending on health, education and public services. Questions were asked about Mr Fahey’s property portfolio and his role in the Corrib gas controversy as former marine minister in 2001-2002.

Mr Fahey said that he had a property portfolio which involved members of his family and other partners. He made annual declarations and he had been “absolutely careful over the years to make my returns in a very open and ethical way”. Towards 10.30pm, members of Fee Galway led a walkout.

At this point, some participants approached the podium and the chairman closed the meeting.

Joe McNamara, who was arrested on September 29th last for driving a concrete mixer into the gates of Leinster House, seized a microphone and said that if Mr Fahey did not resign, he would run as an Independent against him.

By that stage, Mr Fahey had left the room. Outside, Fianna Fáil supporters and protesters engaged in heated argument, amid chants of “Fianna Fáíl out”.

Dr Ahearne has spoken at events hosted by a variety of political parties. It is understood he doesn’t intend to address such meetings in future because of their proximity to a general election.