TÁNAISTE JOAN BURTON has rowed in behind a Labour TD pictured with Gerry ‘The Monk’ Hutch on the front page of a newspaper today.
The Irish Daily Mail claimed Dublin Central TD Joe Costello, a former minister of state, had “posed” with the former criminal at a local fundraising event.
The picture shows the pair, along with former MEP Emer Costello, attending a white-collar boxing event organised by Sinn Féin in February 2014.
But Tánaiste Joan Burton today defended her party colleague, saying she believes Costello was unaware that Hutch had been standing nearby when the photo was taken.
“He was at a community event for a local boxing club and anyone working in media knows that at these events there are general photographs of people,” she said.
“I understand he wasn’t even aware that Mr Hutch was in the photo,” she added.
Politicians all over Ireland stand for photos without necessarily knowing everybody in them.
Hutch, whose brother was killed last week in apparent retaliation for the recent Regency Hotel shooting, has been linked to a number of major armed robberies.
Costello told the paper last night that he attended the event in a personal capacity and did not condone violence of any kind.
“There were dozens of photos taken. People were constantly coming in behind us into the photographs,” he said.
I had no idea who was in that particular photo except myself, my wife and the lady in the front.
Burton was speaking at the launch of a new Labour election campaign urging voters not to let other parties “play with the recovery”.
Standing next to a billboard with the words “USC cut”, “jobs” and “pension increase”, the Labour leader said the choice facing the electorate was “whether to keep the recovery going and stay the course or take a gamble on an uncertain future”.
“Labour has brought both stability and balance to the government,” she said, adding that the minimum wage would have never been increased without her party being in power.
Now, she said, Labour wants to reduce the USC to support “younger people at beginningat their careers, very often earning not too much above the minimum wage”.
Burton also hit out at Micheál Martin, saying the Fianna Fáil leader sees himself as “the new kid on the block”, when in fact he served in the previous government for over a decade.
She said his party “needs to be confronted with their legacy” of cuts to social welfare and the health service.