herald

Thursday 20 September 2018

Gay's first controversy over 'mad EU' comment

FIANNA Fail has today ruled out suggestions that it will fund Gay Byrne's potential presidential campaign.

Under laws governing donations and election fundraising, Fianna Fail can give just €2,500 to any potential campaign for Mr Byrne.

The former Late Late Show host's comments last night about the EU will put him at odds with Fianna Fail.

The broadcaster launched a stinging attack on leadership in the European Union, saying the country is being run by "mad people in Brussels".

Byrne, who has expressed anti-EU views in the past, said that the current crisis was a "culmination of my concerns down the years".

"I never thought we would reach the disastrous phase we are at the moment in Europe in my lifetime," he said.

Byrne also branded the Euro a "crazy notion from the beginning... we crossed the Rubicon when we joined the single currency.

"I think there is no backing out now but it is a mad, mad world and we are being run by mad people in Brussels."

When asked if his anti-EU views could put him at odds with a campaign for the presidency, he replied: "It might or might not."

While Mr Byrne has not officially thrown his hat into the ring, his comments last night appear to suggest he is edging closer to a decision to contest the presidential election.

Mr Byrne was speaking at the Dublin premiere of Grease, where he was accompanied by his wife Kathleen Watkins.



STRONG

Despite Ms Watkins' coming from a strong Fianna Fail family background, a point highlighted by Byrne's opponents, he emphasised that he still intends to run as an Independent.

"Fianna Fail have very little to do with it, I will be an independent candidate if it comes to that. They've assured me about that. I will always remain unpolitical, that's why people love me," he said.

The veteran broadcaster should have no problem relying on funding from other quarters though. He has admitted that he has been inundated with offers of financial donations to fund his likely run for the Aras.

Despite Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin pledging support for the veteran broadcaster if he is to run as an independent candidate, Fianna Fail today categorically ruled out claims of providing significant funding for the campaign.

"Fianna Fail can't just write Gay Byrne a cheque for €200,000 and say 'go for president'," a party spokesperson told the Herald.

"The most we could give him as an entity is €2,500 but it's all speculative at this point.

"The party's position remains unchanged. The parliamentary party will decide on its election strategy in due course."

Byrne (77) has made no secret in the past of the personal financial losses he incurred during the financial downturn.

He lost thousands through the collapse in shares of AIB and Anglo Irish Bank and made a significant number of property investments that went sour.

But he has now claimed to have received "more offers than I can cope with" from potential backers.

hnews@herald.ie

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