LAOIS government colleagues, Fine Gael’s Deputy Charlie Flanagan and Labour Senator John Whelan, locked horns in a bitter war of words as the fall out from a harsh Budget rumbled on.
Senator Whelan criticised his party Leader Eamon Gilmore for being ‘out swanning around with Hilary Clinton’ while he and other parliamentary colleagues were getting it in the neck from low income working families who took ‘an unfair, inequitable and disproportionate’ hit in Budget 2013 unveiled last Wednesday.
“We pledged to protect Child Benefit on the eve of the general election. This cut is hard to stomach from a Cabinet of mostly fat grey haired men in grey suits who are detached and most will not face the electorate next time and stand over their actions.”
On learning of Senator Whelan’s swipe at Mr Gilmore, Deputy Flanagan tweeted late on Saturday night, “John Whelan criticising Gilmore is crass hypocrisy. Every week. Loud on media - silent & ineffictive in party. A real dead duck !”
He also tweeted, “Senator John Whelan should leave Labour with the same speed & vigour he left Fianna Fail.”
Senator Whelan released a statement in response on Sunday morning where he revealed he was ‘completely baffled by the unprovoked and personalised attack’ on him by Deputy Flanagan. He alleged the tweets were offensive and inaccurate.
Senator Whelan took a swipe back at Deputy Flanagan. “He has been a TD for Laois for 30 years and he talks about me being ineffective? Perhaps he would like to list his own outstanding achievements after three decades in the Dáil?
“As for “hypocrisy” and “dead duck”, this is a man who pledged his loyalty and support to Enda Kenny before stabbing him in the back 48 hours later. That is why the former FG Justice spokesman languishes today on the back benches and will never be a Minister, and he has the neck to call me an ineffective, hypocritical dead duck. I rest my case.
“Anything I have to say, I say it straight out and not under the cover of darkness or on Twitter.
“Deputy Flanagan would be better off talking to and working for his constituents instead of needlessly attacking me and looking for me to resign from Labour. That won’t be happening.”
Senator Whelan outlined that he was a committed and loyal member of the Labour Party since he was asked to join and added,
“I would rather not get into an unseemly slagging match but this outpouring of vitriol comes completely out of the blue for me as I have been working as hard as I can and as best I can with my Fine Gael colleagues, as I am certain they will confirm.”
Deputy Flanagan moved to play down Tweetgate.
“The comment about fat grey haired men in cabinet was unwarranted. I accept that we are on the one team. We’ve to work together in Government and we will move forward to deliver the Programme for Government.”
Out of the €3.5 billion budgetary cuts and taxation measures, Senator Whelan identified child benefit cuts, PRSI imposition on low paid workers and the cut in respite carers grants as the flash points and he vowed to have them reversed.
“I intend to fight these cuts and this kind of lazy politics from within Labour,” he said.