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Monday 29 May 2017

'Jobs for the boys' quote leaves Donnelly tongue tied following FF switch

Mr Donnelly is ‘new talent’
Mr Donnelly is ‘new talent’

Stephen Donnelly got tongue-tied on radio as he was probed over stinging criticism he has previously aimed at Fianna Fail.

The TD was immediately on the defensive over his decision to join Fianna Fail as he was questioned over the move on RTE's Drivetime.

The former Social Democrats co-leader has been consistently critical of the party in the past, but leader Micheal Martin welcomed him as "new talent" who can "broaden the attractiveness of the party".

Shortly after the TD for Wicklow and East Carlow was paraded at Leinster House, Mr Donnelly struggled when asked by broadcaster Mary Wilson about an article in which he wrote that the culture associated with Fianna Fail was one "of jobs for the boys, bonuses for the boys, lack of accountability and two fingers to the Dail".

"I don't know where you're quoting it from," said Mr Donnelly. "That's certainly not my language. I don't believe I wrote those words. It doesn't sound like the kind of language I use."

The article in question appeared in the Sunday Independent in January 2014.

In the article, he wrote the "jobs for the boys" description came from a seasoned political observer, but he appeared to agree with the assessment - adding: "I hate it when the cynics are right."

Nonetheless, Fianna Fail believes the recruitment marks a milestone in its campaign to rebuild the party's image with the electorate.

Unsettled

The move has unsettled some of the party's frontbench, who suspect the Wicklow and East Carlow TD merely sees Fianna Fail as "a fast-track to Cabinet" after the next election.

His immediate appointment as the party's spokesman on Brexit has led to speculation that he has done a further deal with Mr Martin on potential roles in the next government should Fianna Fail win power.

However, Mr Donnelly denied this, saying: "No not at all. The cynical approach would be to stay on the opposition benches, keep the head down, see what the numbers are like next time out and see what I could do then."

Asked about his previous attacks on Fianna Fail, he said: "I'm not going to retract various statements I made over mistakes made leading up to the crash.

"What is important is what's happening to Ireland today. Brexit is happening today. American protectionism is happening today. The rise of extremism in Europe is happening today."

Mr Donnelly also claimed there were very few differences between the policies of the Social Democrats, which he quit last September, and Fianna Fail.

Speaking to the Herald last night, his ex-colleague Roisin Shortall said: "I don't know how he can make a claim like that."

She cited her party's position on the USC, the baptism barrier, repealing of the Eighth Amendment and the establishment of an anti-corruption agency as some examples where the parties differ.

Mr Martin said Fianna Fail's sitting TD in Wicklow, Pat Casey, had welcomed the new recruit.

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