TAOISEACH ENDA KENNY has this evening offered his “full apologies to the people of Castlebar” after hitting out at ‘All Ireland whingers’ over the weekend.
Kenny made the full apology on RTÉ’s Six One News, two days after making the remark and repeated that he had been referring to a “small number of Fianna Fáil councillors”.
“My full apologies to the people of Castlebar. There was no offence meant to any member of the public,” he told Bryan Dobson this evening.
“I was having a political go at a small number of Fianna Fáil councillors who scare-mongered bits and pieces about the hospital and units for elderly people and so on like that.”
The Fine Gael leader had been sharply criticised for the remarks made at an event in Castlebar on Saturday.
Speaking to Fine Gael supporters in his constituency, he said: “I say to those people… and God knows we have some All-Ireland champions here in Castlebar.
“I don’t mean Castlebar Mitchels [a local GAA team], I mean the whingers I hear every week saying ‘there’s nothing happening’.
“Well I want to assure them that the future is very bright. All we have to do is maintain progress in terms of our economy.”
Fianna Fáil said the comments showed “arrogance and disconnect”, while Renua said they were “extremely unfortunate and ill-advised”.
But in an interview with Billy McCarthy on WLR FM in Waterford this morning, Kenny apologised for any offence that was caused.
He said that the comment was not meant for the public and was instead intended for Fianna Fáil members in Castlebar.
Speaking to RTÉ this evening, Kenny described it as “local issue” and said no offence was meant, adding: “Mea culpa and I’m sorry about that…. Maybe sometimes you think that everybody knows what you’re talking about.
It was about a couple of Fianna Fáil councillors who’ve had a tendency to talk down their own town and I don’t like that. So, my apologies.
These are political charges, nothing to do with members of the public and I meant no offence and I apologise for that completely.
Earlier today, opposition politicians piled in to criticise Kenny. Fianna Fáil’s justice spokesperson Niall Collins rejected that the Taoiseach was just referring to members of his own party.
“I don’t accept that he was directing those comments at Fianna Fáil people, he seemed to be directing them at the public,” he said.
To me it just shows arrogance and disconnect that he thinks he can make a statement like that and try and present it then as a political attack on Fianna Fáil, which it wasn’t at the time, and I think the record shows that.
Renua leader Lucinda Creighton also criticised Kenny, saying the remarks were “extremely unfortunate and ill-advised”.
The former Fine Gael minister, who is originally from Mayo, said people have “every right, in a democracy, to critique and analyse and express their opinions”.
Meanwhile, Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald was also critical of the Fine Gael leader, telling reporters:
I myself think that Enda Kenny is a bit of a whinger. I’ve endured his whinging for five years.
In a robust interview on WLR FM, McCarthy challenged Kenny on jobs in the Waterford area, the status of Waterford Institute of Technology and hospital care.
“They all said we’d default and never create 100,000 jobs,” said Kenny. ”This is about justice for hard-pressed middle-income workers.”
Kenny said that he believes that Fine Gael will win two seats in Waterford where incumbent TDs John Deasy and Paudie Coffey are seeking re-election.
When asked who he would go into coalition with, Kenny said that “you never know what will happen in the last eight minutes of the match”.
- additional reporting from Paul Hosford