McGrath: I did not mean to put President in tough spot

INDEPENDENT TD, Finian McGrath, said he did not intend to put President Mary McAleese in a difficult position by asking for her intervention in the referendum on the Lisbon treaty.

The Government supporting Dáil deputy wrote to the President asking her to call a meeting of the Council of State — advisers to the President on constitutional matters — to examine if the treaty is in conflict with the Irish constitution.

A spokesperson for President McAleese said her office sent a written reply to Mr McGrath yesterday afternoon, but would not confirm whether she rejected or agreed to his request.

It was believed that either response would have politicised the office of president. To have called in the council could have signalled her concerns about the treaty, while her refusal to do so might have been perceived as her favouring a yes vote.

Yesterday evening Mr McGrath said he had not yet received the response yet.

“I did not attempt to drag her into any political row, I was just asking for her advice and I did it in a very courteous way,” he said.

He said his letter did not cause any conflicts with the Government which he agreed to support in votes in return for provisions for his constituency and nationally. He said he did not consult any government members before writing the letter.

Mr McGrath held one of his regular meeting with representatives of the Taoiseach, Brian Cowen, yesterday to discuss the deal he reached to support the Government. He said his letter to the President “was not raised by anybody”.

He said it was a “positive meeting” and that his “flexibility” with the Government is respected.

A Government spokesperson said Brian Cowen had “no concerns” about Mr McGrath’s letter.

“He is an independent TD, he can write to who he likes and it is a matter between him and the President,” they added.

Mr McGrath admitted he did not vote with the Government on the Lisbon Treaty Referendum Bill in February, meaning he voted against the referendum going ahead.


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