Varadkar stands by FitzGerald comments


FINE GAEL TD:FINE GAEL TD Leo Varadkar has said he is standing over his criticisms of former party leader Garret FitzGerald’s performance as taoiseach in the 1980s. However, he accepts that some aspects of his outspoken comments, where he compared Taoiseach Brian Cowen to Dr FitzGerald, may have been “over the top”.

In exchanges with the Taoiseach in the Dáil on Tuesday, Mr Varadkar claimed Mr Cowen was no Seán Lemass, no Jack Lynch or John Bruton – but was like Dr FitzGerald because he had “tripled the national debt and had effectively destroyed the country”.

He also suggested that Mr Cowen’s botch-up of the country would leave him time to “enjoy writing boring articles in The Irish Timesin a few years’ time”.

This was also taken as a reference to Dr FitzGerald’s weekly column for The Irish Times.

Mr Cowen replied that Mr Varadkar was no John F Kennedy. “The deputy is the Dan Quayle of Fine Gael,” he said.

The comments of the party’s enterprise spokesman have been criticised by colleagues. His frontbench colleague Fergus O’Dowd condemned them as “disgraceful” on Tuesday night. Yesterday Lucinda Creighton, a deputy in Dr FitzGerald’s former constituency of Dublin South East, said he had made a “grave error” and urged him to make a statement in the Dáil withdrawing them.

However, Mr Varadkar said last night that he was not going to withdrawn his criticisms. “I stand over my view on Garret FitzGerald’s performance as taoiseach and his rolling criticism of Fine Gael.

“What I said in the Dáil was over the top. He wasn’t responsible for the crisis in the 1980s but [Brian] Cowen is responsible for the one now. That’s the difference.”

Dr FitzGerald was not contactable yesterday for comment.

Ms Creighton said: “ I am disappointed with Leo’s comments. I think he made a grave error. I think he went too far in what he said. I think that Garret FitzGerald is an iconic figure within the Fine Gael party and in Irish politics. He is revered by party members and by the public.”

She said constituents were upset, and she knew that Leo regretted making the remarks.

Officially, Fine Gael has taken no position on the controversy and indicated that leader Enda Kenny has no plans to speak to the Dublin West TD on the matter.

“Leo is entitled to express an opinion,” said a spokesman.