Byrne’s Brussels outburst exposes FF rift

IRELAND is being run by “mad people in Brussels”, Gay Byrne has claimed, in withering comments which expose a clear division with his potential backers for the presidency, Fianna Fáil.

Mr Byrne said the European project had been “a crazy notion from the beginning” but that Ireland had “crossed the Rubicon” when entering the single currency.

“I think there is no backing out now,” he said. “But it’s a mad, mad world and we are being run by mad people in Brussels.”

Though Mr Byrne’s views are not new — he opposed the Lisbon Treaty and had expressed fears of the EU becoming a “totalitarian superstate” — they could pose a difficulty for staunchly pro-European Fianna Fáil.

While Mr Byrne has stressed he would be an independent candidate, were he to run for the Áras, Micheál Martin has personally offered him Fianna Fáil’s support.

This is viewed as an effort by the Fianna Fáil leader to be associated with a winning campaign and to help restore the party’s battered morale and reputation.

Members within Fianna Fáil believe the party should be nominating one of its own for the race.

Mr Martin will now have to consider the implications of supporting someone so staunchly at odds with the party’s view on the EU.

It is not the first time Mr Byrne has been in disagreement with Fianna Fáil on this or other issues in recent years.

Ahead of the first Lisbon Treaty referendum in 2008, Mr Byrne made it clear he would be voting No, writing in the Sunday Independent that the whole process was “sneaky, dishonest, underhanded and sinister”.

“I don’t believe a word from the mouths of any of the Yes brigade and I have deep scepticism about any of their promises or undertakings,” Mr Byrne said.

Mr Martin directed Fianna Fáil’s campaign for a Yes vote in that campaign.

In 2007, Mr Byrne called for a debate on the legalisation of drugs — only for then taoiseach Bertie Ahern to dismiss the suggestion immediately.

“This is a mighty chasm for me to leap, but I’ve come to the conclusion that the possibility of legalising drugs should be looked at,” Mr Byrne, chairman of the Road Safety Authority, said at the time.

But Mr Ahern replied that he was “totally and fundamentally opposed to the legalisation of any drugs in any respects”.

Mr Byrne made his latest comments when speaking to reporters ahead of an event at the Grand Canal Theatre in Dublin last night.

“What we’re seeing now in Europe is a culmination of my concerns down through the years. I thought it would eventually come in my grandchildren’s time, but it’s come much, much quicker than what I visualised,” Mr Byrne said.


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