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27 Jan 2022

'Unseemly' - Barry Cowen's pointed statement as he backs Simon Coveney in Dáil

'Unseemly' - Barry Cowen's pointed statement as he backs Simon Coveney in Dáil

Barry Cowen

Offaly TD Barry Cowen didn't leave his own party of the Fianna Fáil/Fine Gael/Green government unscathed as he made a statement to the Dáil during the confidence motion debate over Simon Coveney on Wednesday evening.

14 months on from his own sacking from Cabinet by Taoiseach Micheal Martin, the Clara deputy rose to his feet in the Dáil to outline his position on the motion brought forward by Sinn Féin in the wake of the Katherine Zappone UN Envoy debacle. 

His statement followed the resignation of his party colleague Marc MacSharry who said, "I was elected to serve a democratic republic - not one which applies different rules and sanctions depending on the identity or the position of people involved."

Barry Cowen has also been critical of the leadership within Fianna Fail and the current government but he stated that he would vote confidence in Simon Coveney, not before he made some pointed comments towards those involved in the controversy. 

Speaking in the chamber, he said: "The appointment by the Cabinet and the subsequent withdrawal of Katherine Zappone as an envoy has been an unseemly controversy. The fact that the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and the Cabinet approved the appointment, some of whom, yes, were blindsided but, apparently, oblivious to the political implications, is, to say the very least of it, strange.

"The envoy appointment fiasco represented a failure of leadership and collective responsibility at the heart of the coalition. What has made the whole business such a sorry tale is that there was absolutely no public appetite, no demand, for any such envoy to be appointed. It was easy then for the public to conclude or to perceive that this was a set of insiders looking after one of their own.

"I told the Taoiseach directly at our party meeting recently that, notwithstanding his present authority, it would be presumptuous for anyone to believe or presume they have majority support. The same should be said for the entire coalition. The people expect, wish and deserve to see good governance, not sideshows or ineptitude. The Minister, Deputy Coveney, has apologised and so too has the Tánaiste. Let us be fair, there is not unanimous absolute or wholesome confidence in the Minister, especially, unfortunately, in the way he handled this issue within Fianna Fáil, but I expect that the whole sorry episode may well represent the last chance moment for all concerned," he continued.

"The parliamentary democratic system provides potential for Government stability up to five years. It affords time, space and opportunity to implement its programme for Government. I represented Fianna Fáil, among others, in negotiating, agreeing and selling that programme. It has much potential specifically, for example, to address the greatest need in our time at present, which, of course, is housing. We remain committed to this Government delivering from that programme of Government to our constituents. Not to vote with the Government today would seriously curtail our ability to best serve our constituents.

"My membership of the Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party and my commitment to modernise its aims and goals from within are an example that will not be compromised or undermined by the obvious yet understandable political gamesmanship we see here this evening from Sinn Féin. For that reason, I will be voting support for the said Minister and for this Government to hurry up and implement those very agreements we sought and got among ourselves when putting forward a programme for Government that has the ability to deliver according to the people's wishes at the last election."

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