GOVERNMENT TD Aine Collins insisted yesterday that comments she allegedly made at a private meeting with constituents about finding it difficult to live on €140,000 a year were taken totally out of context and had understandably caused "great offence".
"My view is that it is all very regrettable. I am very, very disappointed -- the whole thing is very offensive. It is not something that I ever wanted," she told the Sunday Independent.
"It caused a lot of offence and I can understand that. But it was a private meeting. And I don't discuss anything that arises in a private meeting -- I think that is very important," she said. The meeting was arranged between the FG Cork North West TD and a group from her constituency, the 'Ballyhea Says No to the Bondholder Bailout' lobby.
The group has mounted weekly protests over the bank bailout for almost two years.
It was claimed Ms Collins, 42, passed a flippant comment about being glad she was about to receive her Dail wages.
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However, after the meeting concluded, one protester posted her alleged comments in detail on a blog.
The blog did not, however, name Ms Collins. "Thank God we get paid today," the blog quoted the politician and mother of three as allegedly having said.
Within 24 hours, the story made the Irish newspapers and went viral on the internet, with Ms Collins being named.
Contributors reacted furiously to the suggestion that anyone would find it difficult to makes ends meet on a salary of €92,672 and allowances and expenses of €50,000 in Ireland's economic climate.
The combined income of €142,672 is more than four times' Ireland's average industrial wage. But Ms Collins -- a certified accountant and first-time Dail TD -- insisted what she said was misquoted and taken totally out of context.
"I have learnt a very valuable lesson this week," she said.
Ms Collins also disputes other matters quoted from the meeting including her view on the outspoken economist Constantin Gurdgiev and the prospect of Ireland getting a 50 per cent debt writedown in four years' time. In Cork North West there was some sympathy and some anger that it was her own constituents who landed her in hot water.
"I think it was very unfair. She probably should have been a bit more careful about what she said but it was a private meeting with her own Cork people," one Macroom voter said.