Apologies, regrets and controversy: Here's your latest general election fix from Cork

Apologies, regrets and controversy: Here's your latest general election fix from Cork

With just over a week to go to polling day, Micheál Martin is the man with a target on his back.

However, today he had to do some troubleshooting, by distancing himself from comments made by Fianna Fail MEP, and former Cork North Central TD Billy Kelleher on Twitter.

Mr Kelleher seemingly criticised RTÉ journalist Tony Connelly and RTÉ for its coverage of the European Parliament and called for a cut in the TV licence fee.

Fianna Fail party Leader Micheal Martin TD. Photograph: Leah Farrell / RollingNews.ie
Fianna Fail party Leader Micheal Martin TD. Photograph: Leah Farrell / RollingNews.ie

RTÉ News managing director Jon Williams said Mr Kelleher's comments were "bizarre" and "disappointing".

Mr Kelleher said he was not criticising Mr Connelly, but rather RTÉ's coverage of EU issues.

Mr Martin did some damage control on the issue today saying "Tony Connelly, in particular, has earned the appreciation of the Irish people for his consistent and very hard work. RTÉ deserves credit for the comprehensive nature of its work."

Tony Connelly has since tweeted to say: “Billy Kelleher phoned a short time ago to offer a gracious apology and to insist that his Tweet last night was not directed at me personally but was a result of sadness over Brexit coming to pass and frustration that his constituents feel the EU is not properly explained and explored by the Irish media (in other words, as he would see it, in the absence of healthy and fair coverage of the EU the eurosceptics will always win).

“I have fully and gratefully accepted Billy's apology and explanation and am happy to draw a line under the episode.” 

CATHERINE NOONE CONTROVERSY 

Fine Gael, on the other hand, has doubled down today, and have continued to back Senator Catherine Noone in her Dáil bid.

Fine Gael Senator Catherine Noone 
Fine Gael Senator Catherine Noone 

Richard Bruton has said they’re still backing her bid in Dublin North and said she had made a serious mistake after she suggested Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was autistic.

Mr Bruton dismissed suggestions a video of Ms Noone was scrapped by his party headquarters and efforts were made to disadvantage her bid for election.

He said: "I think Catherine made a very serious mistake and both the Taoiseach and Tanaiste have shown and said that does not accord with our values but she has also made a very sincere apology and I accepted that."

Canvassing with Tánaiste Simon Coveney in Waterford, Mr Bruton said: "We are continuing to work together now to deliver two seats in Dublin Bay North."

Ms Noone is to write to autism organisations after apologising for calling the Taoiseach autistic.

WATER CHARGES 

Labour leader Brendan Howlin says his biggest political regret was how his party handled the water charges while in government.

This could be something Mick Barry highlights in tonight’s debate, given his election in 2016 off the back of the protests.

The controversial austerity measure was introduced in 2014, brought in under the Fine Gael-Labour government, when Mr Howlin was the minister for public expenditure and saw Irish Water - the then-new utility company - begin to send out the first of 1.5 million bills to households around the country in April 2015.

Mr Howlin said his major regret would be his party's handling of the issue: “We were forced to rush the whole Irish Water issue. 

"Irish Water as a single utility was a good idea, but trying to do it in five years was wrong. I would've wished it to be a much longer period."

Another regret he had was not making rows with Fine Gael known: "We had our rows with Fine Gael quietly, we didn't have them openly because we were trying to build confidence in Ireland, so sometimes it looked as though we were acquiescent, but we had flaming rows."

SINN FÉIN LAUNCH EDUCATION PROPOSALS IN UCC 

Sinn Féin has committed to ensuring there are enough places in Special Schools, and ASD Units, as well as pay equality, and decent pay for SNAs and School Secretaries.

Sinn Fein candidates in the upcoming General Election, Thomas Gould, Cork North Central and Donnchadh O'Laoghaire, Cork South Central.Picture: Mike English
Sinn Fein candidates in the upcoming General Election, Thomas Gould, Cork North Central and Donnchadh O'Laoghaire, Cork South Central.Picture: Mike English

Cork South Central’s Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire launched the party’s Education Proposals in Cork today.

He said that a Sinn Féin government will remove the burden of exorbitant costs from parents and students alike.

“The cost of education is coming up a lot on the doors, with many parents extremely angry about failure of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil to deliver on Special Educational Needs,” Mr Ó Laoghaire said, speaking at UCC.

“With the cost of attending third-level education set at €3,000 per year, and outrageous Back to School costs of hundreds, even over a thousand euro per child, it is clear that free education for all is a myth in this state.

“Sinn Féin is committed to equal access and opportunity for all students to study whatever course they believe suits them, without financial barriers,” he said.

Mr Ó Laoghaire also said that Sinn Féin will abolish third-level fees.

LGBTI+ COMMUNITY IN CORK OUTLINE ELECTION MANIFESTO

The LGBTI+ Community in Cork, including LINC and the Gay Project, have highlighted their priorities for the next Government.

They want to see hate speech and hate crimes addressed, legal rights and recognition for LGBTI+ family rights, and legislation to be put in place to prohibit the promotion and practice of conversion therapy.

They’ve called for the end of direct provision, personal autonomy and bodily integrity for people born Intersex and the prohibition of involuntary, non-urgent surgery and other medical treatment on intersex persons.

They also want the next government to support trans, non-binary and intersex young people across Ireland to have access to the legal documents that reflect their true gender.

Finally, they’ve called for a healthcare service that meets the needs of the LGBTI+ population.

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