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eviction ban

Barry Cowen sorry 'if people find' comparison between eviction ban and free sweets offensive

‘It wasn’t my intention to offend them. Sure what more much more do you want me to say?’ the TD told Claire Byrne.

FIANNA FÁIL TD Barry Cowen has apologised to anyone he offended by comparing extending the eviction ban to “making sweets free for children” during a confidence motion in the Dáil yesterday.

“It is fine for a little while, but ultimately detrimental to the greater need,” Cowen had added, which led to criticism from several opposition TDs.

Social Democrats TD Cian O’Callaghan described Cowan’s remarks as a “new low” for the government while Labour’s Aodhán Ó Ríordáin labelled the comments “disgraceful”.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Claire Byrne, the Laois–Offaly TD said he hadn’t intended to offend anyone.

“My intention was to focus on issues, the solutions that are available,” he explained.

“I have four children myself. I love my children,” he said,  before being interrupted by Claire Byrne.

“It’s not the children you’re offending, it’s the tenants,” she asserted.

Cowen added: “Let’s talk about solutions rather than spending time on the radio talking about what I said.”

Byrne responded: “No hang on, you’re not going to draw a line under it, because this is about a lack of compassion as Cian O’Callaghan the Social Democrats TD said, and a lack of understanding of the stress that people who may be about to lose their homes are going through.”

Cowan added that he had met 20 people in his constituency who were facing eviction and that the government were working to provide for people who are served Notices to Quit.

“There is a programme in place to deal with that. As late as it was coming to the table, it’s there and I would expect other TDs like Cian O’Callaghan and Aodhán Ó Ríordáin and anybody else that had a problem with what I said yesterday, to ensure that the cases that have been brought to their attention get the sort of resolution that the government has put in place.”

Cowen was challenged on the nature of his apology and the fact he repeatedly said “if people were offended”.

He responded “It wasn’t my intention to offend them. Sure what more much more do you want me to say?”

Cowan was asked if his comments on free sweets for children were prepared before he spoke in the Dáil or if he thought of the analogy off the cuff, leading him to explain that he had been directing the comment at the Opposition, who he believed were being dishonest.

“Many of those in opposition would have have you believed that extending the eviction ban will wipe away and magic away existing Notices to Quit that have been issued. You can’t pass retrospective law.”

“Opposition detractors who have no time for me or never will have any time for me are only too delighted to pick up on the the analogy I used by virtue of the fact that it seeks to give the impression that I somehow had no empathy or feeling for the people I represent.”

The TD then admitted that what he had said had “left the goal open for them” to criticise him by using that analogy but asked Byrne to have Opposition TDs on her show to discuss what they had done for tenants in their communities.

Later this afternoon, Minister Heather Humphreys defended Cowan, saying that he was “a very good colleague”.

“To be fair to Barry, he was on the radio this morning and he clarified that issue and can I just say Barry’s a hard worker, an absolutely committed public representative who is very aware and very conscious of the issues in his own constituency of Laois-Offaly and he’s a very good colleague.” 

“I know Barry very well. And I wouldn’t like to think that what he said had been taken out of context, but as I said, he explained it this morning on the radio,” she stated.

With additional reporting by Tadgh McNally

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