Enda Kenny has stood over Phil Hogan’s decision to meet disgraced TD Michael Lowry in the immediate days after the Moriarty Report’s release, despite two ministers questioning the meeting.
The matter has caused fresh tensions between the Coalition partners, with a senior Fine Gael TD openly questioning if Labour’s Joan Burton, the social protection minister, had a “death wish” against the Government following her criticism of the meeting.
Mr Kenny phoned Environment Minister Phil Hogan about the issue yesterday, after details of the meeting on Mar 28 last year were revealed in the Irish Examiner.
The meeting took place six days after the Moriarty Report was published, and Ms Burton and Fine Gael minister Jimmy Deenihan, yesterday expressed reservations about it.
However, a spokesman for Mr Kenny said the Taoiseach was satisfied following his phonecall with Mr Hogan that there had been nothing improper about the meeting.
Fine Gael parliamentary party chairman Charlie Flanagan subsequently launched a stinging attack on Ms Burton in apparent retaliation for her criticism of the meeting.
In a message on his Twitter account, he asked: “Has Joan Burton a Government death wish?”
Mr Lowry also attacked Ms Burton and questioned why she was not spending her time looking after matters in her own department, which he claimed was “in chaos”.
Mr Hogan himself issued a statement through his department saying the meeting was held in accordance with the cabinet handbook.
However, Arts Minister Jimmy Deenihan said: “It would be better for Phil Hogan if that meeting hadn’t happened but I can understand how these meetings could happen.”
A spokesman for Mr Kenny said the Taoiseach had no issues with the meeting.
It also emerged yesterday that Finance Minister Michael Noonan met youth organisation Foróige and Mr Lowry at the TD’s request informally last October.
The Taoiseach’s spokes- man said he was unaware if Mr Kenny had given any guidance on future meetings with Mr Lowry.
A spokeswoman for Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore could not say what Labour’s position was but cited Ms Burton’s earlier comments.
Brief minutes of the Customs House meeting were published by the Department of the Environment online last night.
In its statement it said: “Given the purpose of the meeting with Filmco [the company], which related to job protection, he saw no reason not to proceed.
“The meeting was held in accordance with the cabinet handbook, an official was in attendance and no additional matters were discussed. Minister Hogan’s response to the findings of the Moriarty Tribunal are clear and unequivocal and are a matter of Dáil record.”
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