HAVING rarely spoken to the media since losing her seat in the General Election in 2011, former Tánaiste Mary Coughlan has given an in-depth interview to RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta, which ill be broadcast this Tuesday, December 10, at 11am.
In the far-ranging interview with Aodh Máirtín Ó Fearraigh, she discusses the decision to seek a bailout from the EU/IMF, her own role in that process, her treatment at the hands of the press, her opinions of Taoisigh past and present, the work of the current government, and her future in politics.
“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. At the time we got advice from the Central bank etc and we had no other choice.
“There was talk of a soft landing but that was wrong of course … There was huge pressure on the Taoiseach and the Minister for Finance coming from the ECB and the Commission. We had no choice but to look for support from the IMF and the Commission.”
Speaking of her role in the talks leading to the decision on the bailout: “The Taoiseach wanted everyone to have a chance to offer their opinion and that there would be a big debate about the matter. My role, because the Taoiseach and the Minister for Finance couldn’t meet everyone, was to listen to opinions from all the ministers on what they thought we should do. That was my role.
“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.”
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.
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