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FactCheck: No, Eamon Ryan did not fall asleep in the Dáil chamber again

The Green Party leader has come in for criticism after a new clip appears to show him nodding off again.


TRANSPORT MINISTER EAMON Ryan has been criticised after people shared footage of him in the Dáil claiming he fell asleep for a second time.

The Green Party leader was criticised in July for nodding off during a vote in the Dáil’s makeshift home at the Convention Centre, something he later said he regretted

When the Dáil returned from its summer recess yesterday, Oireachtas cameras captured Ryan looking downwards during a speech by Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald, prompting claims he was napping in the chamber again.

But all available evidence suggests the claim is false.

Other shots of the Dáil chamber during McDonald’s speech appear to show the minister either on his phone or reading something.

And footage minutes later after a subsequent speech by Taoiseach Micheál Martin also shows Ryan moving in a manner that suggests he’s awake.

To fall asleep on the job once may be regarded as a misfortune; to do it twice looks like carelessness. But on this occasion, it seems as though the minister’s record is being used as evidence against him.

Let’s take a look at the claim.

The footage

The claim that Ryan fell asleep in the Dáil again originated on Twitter yesterday evening.

One claim posted by the account @last_call12 shows a screenshot of the Green Party leader taken from a Sinn Féin video of McDonald’s speech, in which he is seen looking downwards.

The clip is captioned “Eamon Ryan doing what he does best in the #dáil again today” and features a sleeping emoji.

Eamon Ryan sleep tweet 3 Source: Twitter

Versions of the claim were then shared by a number of other Twitter users, alongside the image of Ryan.

Later, user @ClaireWithTheHai posted the claim alongside a video clip of McDonald’s speech:

Eamon Tweet Source: Twitter

The clip was taken from the start of Leaders’ Questions on Wednedsay, when Mary Lou McDonald raised the issue of energy costs with the Taoiseach.

In her speech, the Sinn Féin leader name-checked Ryan, asking the Taoiseach to get him to intervene with energy regulators over a recent hike in the price of electricity. This prompted the Oireachtas cameras to briefly focus on the Green Party leader.

Here’s the clip showing part of McDonald’s speech which was subsequently re-shared with the claim that Ryan was asleep. Ryan appears at two minutes 41 seconds: 

It’s a short shot of Ryan which lasts less than three seconds, and at a glance it does look like his eyes are closed – particularly when one is primed to look at him as if he’s asleep.

Other evidence

During Leaders’ Questions, the leader of the Opposition – in this case, McDonald – makes a speech asking a question of the Taoiseach (or their party’s representative) – in this case, Micheál Martin.

When they’ve spoken for a set amount of time, the Taoiseach is given a chance to respond for a set amount of time. Then the Opposition leader responds to the Taoiseach’s response, and the Taoiseach responds to that response again.

McDonald was given four minutes to speak in her initial question yesterday. During the course of her speech, there are a number of camera shots around the Convention Centre.

In one, Ryan can be seen to the left, when McDonald has been speaking for one minute. Although it’s inconclusive whether he is awake or asleep at this point, his head is upright, looking forwards, with his glasses on.

Here he is, circled in red (above Micheál Martin):

Ryan Head up Source: Houses of Oireachtas

The next time Ryan can be seen is when the camera pans to him at the end of the Sinn Féin leader’s speech, when she has been addressing the Taoiseach for four minutes and 10 seconds.

This time, his head is down and his glasses are off. This is the image that has been used as evidence that Ryan is asleep (we’ll return to it later).

But to believe the claim, one would have to assume that he removed his glasses, dropped his head and nodded off in the three minutes and ten seconds between the first shot and the second one. It’s certainly possible, but highly implausible.

So what was he doing?

Another shot taken at the start of the Taoiseach’s first response to McDonald appears to give a clue.

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Three seconds into Micheál Martin’s speech (and five seconds after we last see Ryan), the Oireachtas cameras show an overhead shot of the convention centre.

Here it is, with Ryan circled in red:

Dail1 Source: Houses of the Oireachtas

Here’s a close-up (but admittedly blurry) image of the minister from the same shot:

Eamon Ryan hands

Note the position of Ryan’s hands, which appear to be holding something.

Now here’s the image that’s being used to support the claim that Ryan fell asleep. Looking carefully, one can see that his right eye (the one to our left) is slightly open, as if he’s looking down at something:

Ryan Left Eye Source: Houses of the Oireachtas

Without looking hard, the camera angle does make it look like the Green Party leader’s eyes are closed. But it’s simply that he’s looking down towards his lap.

His change of head position, the removal of his glasses (so he can look at something close to him) and the position of his hands back this up.

Finally, when the Taoiseach sits down four minutes and 20 seconds later, Ryan can be seen with his glasses on again.

It’s also notable that he moves (behind Micheál Martin as he re-takes his seat):

Eryan moving

This movement isn’t exactly the behaviour of someone who’s just jerked awake after having nodded off.

TheJournal.ie also contacted the Green Party in an attempt to have Ryan clarify the issue himself.

A spokeswoman directed us to the wide shot which appeared to show the minister holding something in his hands.

From all the available footage, it appears as though the Green Party leader hasn’t fallen asleep. Claims to the contrary appear to be motivated by his doing so earlier this year.

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