ANN CAHILL: Taoiseach behind Bruton despite gaffe

Taoiseach Enda Kenny stood firmly behind Richard Bruton despite his gaffe that could cost the Government votes in the fiscal treaty referendum.

The enterprise minister had made a mistake but there would be no re-run of the vote, Mr Kenny said.

He refused to comment on the latest opinion polls that showed his government satisfaction rating plummeting, but appeared to leave the door open to doing a live TV debate on the treaty.

“I consider everything,” he said when asked if he would debate on Radio Kerry or RTÉ.

Mr Kenny made it clear that his main problem in a TV debate was with Vincent Browne. He did not name the commentator but said: “I was advised by that gentleman to take my own life.”

The Taoiseach, who is on a non-stop campaign ahead of the vote, said he would not be retiring Mr Bruton to the back benches for the duration of the campaign.

“I sent him out onto the frontline to say ‘I made a mistake, I answered incorrectly — this is a once-off opportunity to vote’.

“He had the courage and manliness to admit he made a mistake. We all make mistakes in life. He stays as a very valuable member of the Cabinet with a very important job and he has his nose to the grindstone.”

The vote would not be delayed either. It is important people understand the country will be barred from accessing the EU’s ESM if they reject the treaty, he said, and warned the consequences of that are wide and serious: “People need to understand that to exit the programme in 2013, to send out signals of confidence about ourselves — markets anticipate rather than react — we need to pass this treaty. And a no vote would make it very difficult to get back to the markets.”

Responding to taunts from the no campaign that the Taoiseach was akin to a bad poker player, he said: “I don’t play poker.

“Politics is always an uncertain science and there are issues outside our control, but we are completely in control of this vote. The Irish people and nobody else decides for us.”

Mr Kenny spoke about the need for a European growth pact at a meeting of senior members of the European People’s Party in Killarney, organised by MEP Seán Kelly.

The Taoiseach was met by a small group of protestors when he went to speak to the Impact union in Killarney.


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