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Cowen favoured ‘big family names’

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FORMER TAOISEACH and Fianna Fáil leader Brian Cowen was last night accused of favouring “big family names” within the party by Public Accounts Committee chairman John McGuinness.

Mr McGuinness, a Fianna Fáil TD for Carlow-Kilkenny, was one of a number of current party deputies who criticised Mr Cowen in the first episode of Crisis – Inside the Cowen Government , a two-part documentary written and narrated by Sunday Business Post political editor Pat Leahy and broadcast on RTÉ 1.

“He had a loyalty to tribalism within that party, if you could describe it that way, that was unequalled. So he would favour those that he knew well; favour those that were big family names within the party, and there was almost an insider and outsider position,” Mr McGuinness said.

“There was a blind loyalty at play within all of this and it centred itself around those that socialised with him in the bar.”

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, a former Cabinet colleague of Mr Cowen’s, cited a lack of engagement with the electorate as the worst aspect of the last Government.

“The worst aspect of the last Government was communications. It just did not do optics in any shape or form . . . because I don’t think the Taoiseach himself, Brian Cowen, believed in optics.

“He was old-style in that sense and I don’t think quite appreciated the dynamic of modern media and communication.”

Mayo TD Dara Calleary said Fianna Fáil Oireachtas members were given incorrect information about eligibility for medical cards at a briefing the evening the budget for 2009 was presented. Protests by pensioners ensured a reversal of the policy to change the criteria for eligibility for medical cards.

“I remember that night thinking, what have we done here? If the information on which this decision was made was as flawed in the way that it was presented to us that night, what have we done here?” Mr Calleary said.

Referring to the medical card issue, Cork North Central TD Billy Kelleher said: “That was the one issue where you could physically sense that the public now were gone beyond being dissatisfied with us; they clearly disliked us as well.”

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