A BLAZING war of words between justice minister Charlie Flanagan and Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley has livened up the Laois political scene.
Minister Flanagan chose the Laois/Offaly Fine Gael (FG) selection convention last week to launch a blistering attack on what he described as “crazed” Sinn Féin policies. He also stressed that he would not support any FG government coalition with Sinn Féin in future.
His comments brought a strong counter-attack from deputy Stanley, who dismissed minister Flanagan’s speech as “a hysterical outburst” that amounted to little more than “claptrap” and playing to the gallery.
Minister Flanagan was selected to contest the next general election, together with Offaly party colleagues Marcella Corcoran Kennedy and John Clendennen, at the party’s convention in Clonaslee. The minister’s 2016 general election running mate Thomasina Connell, a solicitor from Ballybrittas, withdrew at the 11th hour when it was revealed that the party would select only three candidates.
In a rousing and wide-ranging convention speech to the converted, the justice minister said he wanted to make it “crystal clear” that he would not support a Fine Gael/Sinn Féin government. He likened SF’s “radical left-wing economics” to those of its “sister party” Syriza in Greece, which delivered “little more than chaos” that left the people of Greece high and dry.
He declared: “I cannot support the cheque-book answer as a solution to everything that forms the basis of the crazed SF economic policies.”
The minister also launched a salvo at what he described as “the false promises” of Fianna Fáil (FF), as he declared that FG was “the responsible party” trusted to clean up FF’s mess. He added: “We have been defeated by parties with Pied Piper policies, willing to risk the recovery and start the boom and bust cycle again, all for narrow party political advantage. We cannot let that happen again.”
Minister Flanagan’s comments got short shrift from deputy Stanley, who said the fact that he “concentrated most of his hysterical outburst against Sinn Féin” showed that he obviously saw the party as a political threat.
Deputy Stanley also dismissed the minister’s references to Greece, as he contended that it was New Democracy, a party in the same alliance as FG in the European People’s Party, that “conveniently walked away leaving it to the Syriza Party to clean up the mess”.
The Sinn Féin TD described the minister’s convention speech as an attempt to divert attention from “the utter failures of his government to deal with the crucial issues in housing, health, rural broadband and climate change” among others. He said: “Despite seven-and-a-half years in power, their policies have simply made matters worse in all these areas, not to mention the fact that they nailed the banking debt created under Fianna Fáil to the backs of our children and grandchildren.”
It will be the ninth general election campaign for minister Flanagan, who followed in the footsteps of his famous father deputy Oliver J Flanagan and was first returned to the Dáil in 1987. He has won seven of his eight general election campaigns, having lost his seat to Tom Parlon (Progressive Democrats) in 2002 but returned to the Dáil in every general election since then.