"Mea culpa" - Taoiseach withdraws whingers comment

Enda Kenny earlier insisted his controversial comments at the weekend were directed at opposition politicans

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File photo: Taoiseach Enda Kenny (L) high fives with Cillian Malanaphy after casting his vote at St. Patrick's De La Salle Boys National School, Castlebar, Co. Mayo in the European Fiscal Treaty Referendum in 2012. Picture by: Julien Behal / PA Archive/Press Association Images

Updated 12.30

The Taoiseach has withdrawn a remark he made about "whingers" in Castlebar, Co Mayo at the weekend.

Enda Kenny said his home town had the All Ireland Champions in whinging.

He initially said that he was talking about "locals" in Castlebar and that he did not regret the remark.

This morning on WLR FM radio in Waterford he apologised and said the remark was not targeted at voters but rather the professional Fianna Fáil politicians in the town.

And speaking to reporters a short time ago, he finally withdrew the remark:

Prior to withdrawing the remarks, he gave an interview to Waterford radio station WLR FM, in which he said:

"This is a local issue, I wasn't referring to members of the public anywhere, nor indeed my own county, my own town.

I was referring specifically to a number of full-time, professional, politicians of the Fianna Fáil party who constantly talk down their own town, who constantly scaremonger.

If any offence was taken by the public then I regret that - obviously I was speaking specifically about Fianna Fáil politicians."

Speaking afterwards he said he should not have made the remarks and he is withdrawing them.

Listen to what Enda Kenny said in Castlebar at the weekend:

Rivals criticise

Joan Burton says it's important that the Taoiseach hears opinions that are not his own.

The Labour leader said she doesn't agree with Enda Kenny's assertion that people who complain are 'whingers'.

Joan Burton says that people are fully entitled to put their views to politicians, without being called whingers.

"It's not a term I would use. But I think the important thing is that the Taoiseach has heard that people have issues and difficulties and an analysis which is not exactly the same as his."

Fianna Fáil Justice spokesperson was not buying the Taoiseach explanation that he was speaking about members of his own party when he talked about "whingers": 

"I don't accept that he was directing those comments at Fianna Fáil, he seemed to be directing them at the public.

To me it just shows arrogance and disconnect... that he thinks he can make a statement like that and try and present it then as a political attack on Fianna Fáil, which it wasn't at the time."

Party support

Earlier, the Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald defended her leader on Newstalk.

Minister Fitzgerald said the comments had been misinterpreted. 

"He was obviously referring to a very small group of local Fianna Fáil politicians," said Mrs Fitzgerald, "who were completely unable to see any benefit in the improving economy, and that was the particular point he was making".

The Justice minister added that "anyone who knows Enda Kenny knows how understanding he is", and that to interpret the remarks on a specific group as a general comment on the people of Mayo would be "completely inaccurate".

Meanwhile, Newstalk's Ivan Yates has predicted that Enda Kenny's seat in Mayo is safe on Friday - but it is colleague Michael Ring who will top the poll locally.