DUBBED the ‘Catfight in Claremorris’, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has ‘petulantly clashed’ with his only female constituency colleague, Deputy Michelle Mulherin, over her failure to invite him to a briefing on Knock Airport. That’s according to Monday’s Irish Independent, which revealed he was involved in ‘heated exchanges’ with the Ballina-based TD in a Claremorris hotel before last week’s meeting with Knock Airport’s board about its future sustainability.
Apparently, Mr Kenny complained that he wasn’t invited by Michelle Mulherin to a backbenchers meeting with the airport’s board – attended by TDs and Senators from all over the western region on January 22 in Leinster House. Clearly, the pressure is on about the future of the airport, since The Mayo News understands that such briefings are never attended by either the Taoiseach or his ministers.
Apparently, Ms Mulheirn gave as good as she got during the spat with her boss, quipping: “Are you cross-examining me?” while ‘embarrassed’ witnesses Minster Leo Varadkar, Deputy John O’Mahony and Fine Gael’s National Executive chairman, Brian Murphy sat silently.
The subsequent meeting with the board of Knock Airport lasted three hours and was deemed ‘positive’, with the establishment of a committee comprising representatives of the government, the airport and county council charged with examining its future. Earlier in January Mayo’s 31 county councillors held a meeting with the board also.
The Mayo airport’s future has come into focus in light of the so-called ‘sweetheart deal’ afforded to Shannon Airport by government, which, with a €100 million debt write-off and many more perks, gives it a significant competitive advantage..
Spokesman for the Taoiseach, Cllr Ger Deere declined to comment on the row yesterday, saying it was a private meeting.
When contacted by The Mayo News Ms Mulherin also declined to comment on the row. However she said: “I am focused on the future of Knock Airport and welcome as a positive development the creation of the Study Group and it is important that its terms of reference are put in place immediately . It is due to report in May next and what is of paramount importance is that its recommendations are implemented in full as happened for Shannon airport.”