Fine Gael backs down on Cowen pairing for EU-Asia talks - The Irish Times - Tue, Sep 28, 2010FINE GAEL has backed down from an initial declaration that it would refuse Taoiseach Brian Cowen a Dáil pairing arrangement to attend the eighth Asia-Europe summit meeting in Brussels on Monday and Tuesday next.
Apparently Fine Gael only realised how important a meeting was after queries from RTE and the Irish Times. After initially pointing out how easy it would be for Cowen to return to the Dail - they have now said they will allow the pairing for the EU-Asia summit.
Last Friday it was disclosed on Politics.ie that Fine Gael would be withdrawing from pairing arrangements with the Government for the forthcoming Dail term. Today Labour stepped in (after being approached by the Tanaiste Mary Coughlan) to pair with the Minister for Education to allow a journey to the US to promote international students coming to Ireland.However the Fine Gael spokesman contacted this newspaper, after the front page had been shown on television late last night and he had received a query about the matter from RTÉ, to say that he had not understood the meeting was of such high status and a pair would not be refused after all.
Late in the day, Fine Gael attempting to explain themelves by pointing out their withdrawal of pairing arrangements would still allow Mary Coughlan to travel to the US after Wednesday. In a statement entitled "Enterprise Ireland schedule confirms Coughlan could attend Dáil AND Conference" Fine Gael’s Education Spokesman, Fergus O’Dowd TD said the Tanaiste could comfortably attend the Dail and the conference saying that the conference attended by Enterprise Ireland were being held on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. FG's statement suggested after a day of business in the Dail, the Tanaiste could travel to the US to be there for conferences on Thursday.