Former Tánaiste Mary Coughlan has stated she knew she was in line to lose her Dáil seat as a result of calling in the Troika and the IMF.
In an interview to be broadcast on Raidio na Gaeltachta, she reveals Brian Cowen appointed her as his go-between with anxious ministers in the run-up to the infamous bailout.
Ms Coughlan said she knew she was in line to lose her Dail seat as a result of calling in the troika and the IMF. “We did what we knew needed to be done, we knew we had to make those difficult decisions.
“We also understood the implications for the party, that we would lose seats, including our own, but we were doing the right thing for the State.”
The former Donegal TD, who is said to be testing the water for a possible political comeback, said she got the job to brief others because Mr Cowen and the late Finance Minister Brian Lenihan “couldn’t meet everyone”.
Following on from an interview almost one year ago given in the Abbey Arts Centre in Ballyshannon where she spoke openly about her own position following the death of her husband, David, and in which she alluded briefly to the dying days of the Fianna Fáil government, Ms Coughlan has repeated her belief that the Fianna Fail government “had no choice” but to call in the IMF, adding that the Cabinet acted on the advice of the Central Bank.
“The Taoiseach wanted everyone to have a chance to offer their opinion and that there would be a big debate about the matter,” Ms Coughlan told RTE’s Raidio na Gaeltachta.
She tells Raidio na Gaeltachta in an interview to be broadcast on December 10th, that the government was not aware of the gravity of the looming crisis, particularly in relation to the state of the banking sector.
“I understand that people want someone to blame, but there were lots of people involved, not just one person. It’s clear now that the government didn’t have all the information about the situation – in particular, the state of the banks. Questions need to be answered.
“We got advice from the Central Bank etc and we had no other choice.
“There was huge pressure on the Taoiseach and the Minister for Finance coming from the ECB and the (European) Commission.
“We had no choice but to look for support from the IMF and the Commission,” Ms Coughlan said.
Ms Coughlan speaks candidly in the interview about her own treatment at the hands of the press, how she was hounded by them, in particular during the FÁS scandal, and also talks about the government’s media relations.
“One week during the FÁS story I was on the front page of the Independent for the whole week. Things were very difficult at the time, and perhaps we weren’t as good as we could have been about working with the media as a party and as a government.
“It was difficult for David and the children, because they were able to read at this stage, and we banned the papers for a while in the house, so the children wouldn’t see what was being written.’
“I was under huge pressure everywhere I went. Crowds of journalists would follow me, running down the road after me. That doesn’t happen anymore. It was herd mentality, and they took a lot of what I said out of context.”
Asked whether journalists and/or newspapers had an agenda against her, she answers:
On the current government, she criticises their neglect of rural issues, but says that Enda Kenny is doing well.
‘We (FF) didn’t neglect rural areas, compared to this government. Almost all the ministers, apart from Enda Kenny, are city based – Dublin, Cork, Limerick. They have a policy not to pay attention to the difficulties in rural areas – garda stations closing, small schools under threat ... I don’t see the political support for rural areas.
“Enda Kenny as Taoiseach is doing very well. He’s interested, and he’s working hard, but he’s not visible in enough places. I don’t think he’s being asked the hard questions. He’s like a package for the government and the handlers. I’d like to see him travelling around the country more, and getting asked the hard questions.”
Asked whether she will run in 2016, she says that she hasn’t closed the door completely, but that there’s a need for new blood.
*Aodh Máirtín Ó Fearraigh’s interview with Mary Coughlan will be broadcast on RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta on Tuesday 10 December 11 am.