Taoiseach ‘entitled’ to give ministers privacy warning

TAOISEACH Brian Cowen would have been “quite entitled” to warn his ministers about the need for cabinet confidentiality, a Government spokesman has said.

It was reported this weekend Mr Cowen had issued a stern privacy warning at the new cabinet’s first meeting last Wednesday night, stressing the need for matters discussed at such meetings to be kept confidential.

Mr Cowen was claimed to have told ministers there would be “serious consequences” for any cabinet member who leaked sensitive or damaging information.

Labour party leader Eamon Gilmore yesterday suggested this was proof that the “civil war” in Fianna Fáil was not yet over.

Speaking on TV3’s The Political Party, Mr Gilmore said: “I would draw from that there is still trouble at the mill in Fianna Fáil because if he [Mr Cowen] is issuing warnings... about not leaking, it means that there is some concern there, that there is some kind of factionalising, that there [are] some kind of agendas being pushed against him.”

On the same programme, former Fine Gael minister Gemma Hussey, one of the few Irish politicians to have written of her time in cabinet, said: “It gives me the heebie jeebies a bit because it brings my mind back to people leaking and the next thing was phones being tapped,” she said, in reference to the 1982 Fianna Fáil government bugging the phones of two journalists who had cabinet sources.

The Government spokes-man was unable to verify if Mr Cowen had issued the privacy warning, saying he would not have that knowledge as cabinet meetings are confidential.

But while neither confirming nor denying the exchange took place, he added: “A new taoiseach would be quite entitled to remind his team of the seriousness of their business, and confidentiality would be a part of it... Every chief executive in the country would understand board meetings are of a confidential nature.”


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