BRIAN Cowen provoked outrage last night by accusing opposition leaders of “using” vulnerable disabled people for political point scoring.
Responding to attacks in the Dáil that he was ignoring protests by families of intellectually challenged people who feared their respite services faced cuts, the Taoiseach said critics had deliberately exaggerated the situation.
The Taoiseach’s comments drew a furious response from Fine Gael and Labour who said it showed how out of touch and “desperate” he was on the issue of funding for disability care.
Mr Cowen said he was “contemptuous” of the way opposition parties had highlighted the issue of disabled care.
“There is coming from the opposition an attempt — in that case this week in my opinion, if you want my honest opinion why I would be somewhat contemptuous of the attack that came — using vulnerable people to make an exaggerated point to suggest that everyone in respite care was at risk, that is not true,” he told RTÉ’s The Week In Politics.
Enda Kenny’s spokesperson said Mr Cowen was showing contempt for the Dáil and disrespect for the families of disabled people whose lives Government policies were “destroying”.
Labour leader Eamon Gilmore’s spokesperson said: “That is the plea of a bankrupt and discredited Government that has spent far too long in office and is completely out of touch with reality and the real world.”
Mr Cowen refused to be drawn on calling Mr Kenny a “fool” during exchanges on respite care.
Though the comment was not included on the official record of Dáil proceedings it was heard by journalists in the press gallery.
“Ah look it is not on the record. But Enda has said a lot of things too. That is just the bric-a-brac of politics,” Mr Cowen said.
Before heading for an official visit to the US taking in New York and Atlanta, Mr Cowen unveiled a new €500m investment fund with half its resources coming from private firms.
“We are bringing in an innovation fund. We intend from direct exchequer funding to put in €125m over the next five years. We will also have €125m, put in at normal commercial terms, by the National Pension Reserve Fund and because of the way we have structured this and the discussions we have had in California, in Silicon Valley, in Boston and elsewhere, we will have the tier one joint venture capital companies coming in here, who will locate here and who will bring their expertise as well as their money and we will have Enterprise Ireland going out for the first offer in September. I believe this is a fundamental gap in how we can build businesses in Ireland,” he said,
Mr Cowen said he was confident of keeping the Coalition together to pass this December’s budget.
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