Outraged rural Fine Gael deputies “tore strips out of” Jobs Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor last night at a party meeting after a presentation she gave backfired and saw TDs turn on her.
There were “fireworks” between TDs and the jobs minister, who tried to leave the meeting a number of times.
Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar firstly gave the parliamentary party a powerpoint presentation on the budget, which was described as “sophisticated”.
The trouble started when Ms Mitchell O’Connor gave hers.
“She stood up reading from her phone. It kept crashing, in need of a password.
“She spoke about how brilliant her department was. That really annoyed people,” one party source said.
Some of the TDs began asking Ms Mitchell O’Connor what she was doing for their region.
Sligo-Leitrim TD Tony McLoughlin lashed the minister about job creation in his constituency, contributing three times to the meeting.
“It’s because of Brexit, the lack of job opportunities too. With all the jobs coming to Dublin, they’re [politicians] feeling more isolated than ever before,” added another source.
Mr McLoughlin confirmed there were exchanges.
“There should be incentives in the north west for jobs, in my opinion there are a lot of announced in Dublin and along the east coast. We are a border constituency and with Brexit we need to be protected,” he said.
Clare TD Joe Carey also took issue with the jobs minister.
“Carey and Tony tore strips off her. She got cranky,” added the source.
It is understood that Ms Mitchell O’Connor at one stage told Mr McLoughlin that she had holidayed in Sligo and it was “thriving”, to which the TD came back even more angry.
Mr Carey also confronted the jobs minister about how he arrived at her department last week with visitors, and officials were “unaware” of 240 job losses in Clarecastle, at the Roche Ireland pharmaceutical factory.
Mr Carey confirmed the meeting was tense and he wanted more joined-up thinking between the department of job and the IDA.
“It was very frank and to the point. There was a degree of frustration expressed. She made a presentation in relation to the department and there was an opportunity to raise concerns.”
Sources present said Ms Mitchell-O’Connor tried to leave the meeting three or four times but that the exchange with TDs and senators went on for an hour.
Louth TD Fergus O’Dowd confirmed there were a number of unhappy TDs which led to “strong exchanges and firm opinions given.”
The minister at one stage told the room that “most of the jobs are going to Limerick, but not all of them.”
This was viewed as a dig against Finance Minister Michael Noonan, who recently shot down the jobs minister’s suggestion for a special emigrant tax.
A party source added: “She lit a camp fire basically and then set the tent on fire.”
Mayo senator Michelle Mulherin also voiced concern about the lack of jobs in her county.
Ms Mitchell O’Connor was not available for comment last night.
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