Fianna Fáil leaders past and present round on Leo Varadkar

By Juno McEnroe and Daniel McConnell

Former taoiseach Brian Cowen has criticised Leo Varadkar for showing “inexperience” and called on him to “act in an adult way” when negotiating with Fianna Fáil.

The Taoiseach was also criticised by Mr Cowen for his “clever boy tactic” in trying to seek an agenda over the budget and the Government support pact talks.

His comments largely echo fresh remarks from present Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, who accused the Taoiseach of cynical game-playing, and of trying to “create an aura of instability around his own Government”.

“It is a political game pure and simple,” Mr Martin writes in today’s Irish Examiner. “And as the new biography of the Taoiseach shows at great length, playing the game of politics has been his primary focus through his entire career.”

In a rare intervention, Mr Cowen set out why he thought the current Taoiseach, the man in “the top job”, needed to see out the three years of “stability” as agreed between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil in the confidence and supply agreement.

The remarks come as Fianna Fáil holds its pre-Dáil meeting tomorrow, and as negotiations continue this week between both parties over the budget.

Speaking to the Irish Examiner while attending the Kennedy Summer School in New Ross, Wexford, over the weekend, Mr Cowen said: “Fianna Fáil have acted very responsibly and provided a solution in the aftermath of the last general election and it has given three years of relative stability.

“It is clear in the agreement, that the question of a review comes up after the third budget. That is signed, sealed, and delivered three years ago.

“So one wonders what the real motivation of the Taoiseach [is]. The Taoiseach is suggesting now: ‘I’m putting it out here now, just to make sure we have stability.’”

“But when you act in a way that is contrary to the agreement you have made, in terms of what the chronology is in an effort to put people who are giving you support as he sees it on the back foot in public perceptions terms, that is showing a bit of an inexperience that one wouldn’t expect from a guy that’s at the top job.”

Asked if there were political reasons for this, the former Fianna Fáil leader said: “Obviously. Clearly, seeking to set out an agenda before a negotiation takes place at all. That’s so nearly all encompassing as to suggest that the input from Fianna Fail would be minimal.

“You can be too clever by half sometimes. I think that’s what he [Mr Varadkar] might be suffering from at the minute.”

In today’s Irish Examiner, Mr Martin also writes that the co-ordinated effort

during last week by Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy and the Taoiseach to shift the blame for the housing crisis to local councils was “as depressing as it was cynical”.

“They are the ones who have toured the country claiming ‘the plan’s working’, but now they expect us to believe the plan’s working, and if it isn’t, it’s someone else’s fault,” said Mr Martin.

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