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"We knew we would lose our seats" - Mary Coughlan's first interview since the election

Former Tánaiste Mary Coughlan has said she hasn’t ruled out running for election again in future but that Fianna Fáil needs new blood.

Mary Coughlan with former Taoiseach Brian Cowen.
Mary Coughlan with former Taoiseach Brian Cowen.
Image: Julien Behal/PA Wire

FORMER TÁNAISTE MARY Coughlan has said Fianna Fáil Ministers knew they would lose their seats as they negotiated the bailout from the troika – but said their actions were in the country’s best interests.

In her first major interview since losing her seat in the 2011 General Election, the former Tánaiste said that the government at the time didn’t know just how precarious a financial situation many of the country’s banks were in.

Coughlan also spoke about the fractious relationship between Fianna Fáil and the media, saying she felt under huge pressure from journalists who would ‘run down the road’ following her.

“I understand that people want someone to blame, but there were lots of people involved [in the economic crisis], not just one person,” she told RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta.

It’s clear now that the government didn’t have all the information about the situation – in particular the state of the banks.
Questions need to be answered. At the time we got advice from the Central Bank [...] and we had no other choice.

“We did what we knew need to be done, we knew we had to make those difficult decisions,” she said. “We also understood the implications for the party, that we would lose seats, including our own, but we were doing the right thing for the State”.

She told interview Aodh Máirtín Ó Fearraigh that she had banned newspapers for a while in her own home so that her children wouldn’t see what was being written about her.

“One week during the FÁS story I was on the front page of the Independent for the whole week,” she said. “Things were very difficult at the time, and perhaps we weren’t as good as we could have been about working with the media as a party and as a government”.

I was under huge pressure everywhere I went. Crowds of journalists would follow me, running down the road after me. That doesn’t happen anymore. It was herd mentality, and they took a lot of what I said out of context.

Election 2016

Her low-key interview echoes that of former Fianna Fáil leader Brian Cowen, who gave his first full interview since leaving office to TG4 in August.

On the issue of whether she will run for election again, Coughlan said she hasn’t closed the door completely on standing in the 2016 general election but said there’s a need for new blood in the Fianna Fáil party.

Asked about current Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Coughlan praised him for his work so far but said he isn’t being asked ‘the hard questions’.

“He’s like a package for the government and the handlers,” she said. “I’d like to see him travelling around the country more and getting asked the hard questions”.

The interview will be broadcast on RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta at 11am this Tuesday.

Read: “There is no one more sorry than I” – Brian Cowen >

Read: 9 interesting quotes from Brian Cowen’s first interview in over two years >

Column: Fianna Fáil renewed? No, the optics tell a different story >

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