PEOPLE felt “insulted” by the Taoiseach’s controversial radio performance, according to Minister Mary Hanafin, who became the second cabinet member to give a veiled criticism of Brian Cowen over the incident.
The Minister for Tourism, Arts and Culture, said the Taoiseach’s apology for the incident was “the right thing to do” because “what we have got over the two days has been that people had felt insulted by it and I know that certainly he, nor any of us, would want to insult any listener or any member of the Irish public.”
She said the Taoiseach’s apology should mark the end of the matter but that: “There’s no doubt it was a blow and there’s no doubt that yesterday people felt hurt and sore by it and the public reaction was coming through to all of us as public representatives.”
“But the way that the Taoiseach handled it yesterday evening, I believe, did bring it to a conclusion.”
It follows remarks by Minister for Foreign Affairs, Micheál Martin, who said the episode had been “damaging” and that Brian Cowen needed to “knuckle down”.
However the Tánaiste, Mary Coughlan, insisted last night that Mr Cowen has the full support of his Cabinet while other ministers close to him tried to draw a line under the controversy.
“The Taoiseach has the full confidence of the Cabinet and also of the parliamentary party. We’re moving on, as you know he’s in Brussels today at a heads of state meeting, and he is working as he has to on behalf of the Irish state, as are all members of the Cabinet,” said Ms Coughlan.
Minister for Enterprise, Batt O’Keeffe, who is seen as being close to the Taoiseach, said Mr Cowen was “quite upset” and the apology was an “extremely manly” thing to do.
He said: “The apology came from the Taoiseach himself. It was a fulsome apology and significantly said that mistake would not occur again.”
Another politician close to him, constituency colleague, John Moloney, also defended Mr Cowen saying he did “not buy” the link being made to alcohol and said it was “most unfair” that his “off moments” were being watched so closely.
But he did qualify the defence by saying he was a good friend and would be expected to stick up for him.
Fianna Fáil backbenchers admitted that they were discussing among themselves the serious concerns they had over the controversial radio interview, in which it was alleged that the Taoiseach was drunk or hungover.
“There is no doubt but that there is huge concern in the party. People are talking to each other,” said one TD.
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