Let Me Tell You: Episode 2 - I was severely assaulted after IMF bailout, says MEP Billy Kelleher

Let Me Tell You: Episode 2 - I was severely assaulted after IMF bailout, says MEP Billy Kelleher

MEP Billy Kelleher speaking during his recent visit to to St Niocláis NS in Frankfield as part of the Blue Star Programme marking European Day. Picture: Howard Crowdy

Former minister and current Ireland South MEP Billy Kelleher has revealed he was “seriously assaulted” by an angry member of the public following the IMF bailout in 2010.

Mr Kelleher, speaking to the Irish Examiner’s Let Me Tell You podcast, says some ministers in Brian Cowen’s government at the time had to take their children out of their schools because of the hostility in response to the surrendering of economic sovereignty and the financial crash.

One day, as he left a funeral home near the quays in Cork, a man approached Mr Kelleher and violently shoved him to the ground, the MEP says.

“It had come to the stage for Fianna Fáil ministers and TDs, going out and interacting with the public was becoming very difficult,” he says. 

"There was actually an increase in security details for ministers, ministers of State."

While he says there was a lot of hostility, Mr Kelleher says such anger was “very understandable” because of the “fundamental breach” in terms of a government having to accept the aid of others.

Attacks on ministers

“There were attacks on ministers and TDs," he says.

I certainly would have been assaulted myself on at least one occasion, fairly severely.” 

But Kelleher says ministers like him did not report such assaults, as “there was no sympathy or understanding” for their position at the time.

“You didn't report at the time, because you just felt it was would be no understanding of it," he said. "And you didn't want to encourage copycat elements as well.

"We weren't expecting sympathy, but that was experienced by an awful lot of deputies to the point where some ministers had to take their children out of schools that they were attending.”

Mr Kelleher says he and other ministers would avoid going out with family members such as spouses for fear of causing aggravation or causing a scene.

Binary choice

In the podcast, Mr Kelleher also delivers a stinging criticism of Taoiseach Micheál Martin’s decision to extend the confidence and supply deal with Fine Gael for a fourth year, saying that decision did real damage to Fianna Fáil at the last general election.

“Extending the confidence and supply from the three years to the fourth year, I think, was a major misjudgement, in my view,” he says.

"It was because it is fermented into people's mind that to get rid of Fine Gael, you also have to get rid of Fianna Fáil. And the only way you could do that was by voting for others. And that was primarily Sinn Féin. 

"And I just think we could give the public a binary choice which, in my view, is why Sinn Féin ended up with 37 seats in the last election,” he says.

“I don't think we had to go for the fourth year. Once we went to the fourth year, we were always sowing in people's minds that it was a binary choice.”

Changed landscape

Mr Kelleher concedes that the old view that it is 'Fianna Fáil versus the rest' is now long gone.

"The landscape has changed, and it's changed forever,” he concedes.

From a political perspective, he says Fianna Fáil is going to have to not just depend on traditional votes anymore.

“Before we were trying to grasp the entirety of the political spectrum," he says. "I just don't believe that's a space that we can say we can dominate anymore.”

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Let Me Tell You

Let Me Tell You is a new bespoke podcast series from 

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Hosts Daniel McConnell and Paul Hosford take a look back at some of the most dramatic moments in recent Irish political history from the unique perspective of one of the key players involved.

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