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'Goddammit that's an awful thing to say': Sparks fly between Taoiseach and Healy-Raes

Taoiseach Micheál Martin subsequently apologised to Michael Healy-Rae.


TAOISEACH MICHEÁL MARTIN was told to “cop on a small bit” by Michael Healy-Rae TD in the Dáil today, during angry scenes about cross-border cataract surgeries.  

The matter was raised by Independent TD Michael Collins, who has organised buses for constituents to travel to Belfast for surgery under the cross-border directive.

“Myself and Deputy Danny Healy-Rae have organised taking 2,000 people from all over Cork and Kerry to Belfast in the past few years. Some of them were into their 90s, who had no choice but to go blind at home or go to Belfast,” Collins said. 

The Cork South West TD asked the Taoiseach whether he could guarantee that the cross-border directive would remain in place after the Brexit transition period which ends on 31 December.

In response, the Taoiseach thanked Collins for his work in helping constituents have cataract surgery and added that his own focus was to “avoid people having to go on long journeys to get cataract operations”.

He said he “has no difficulty” with Collins’ efforts, adding that it has been “a game changer for yourself too electorally”. 

This prompted an angry response from Collins’ colleagues in the Rural Independent Group, Danny Healy-Rae and Michael Healy-Rae, who have both helped organise cataract buses

Pointing in their direction, the Taoiseach added: “I was reliably informed that Deputy Healy-Rae approached people outside of Mass to say I can get you on the bus I can get you a cataract.” 

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This comment saw Michael Healy-Rae leave his seat, shouting at the Taoiseach that he should “take that back” and that Martin’s comments were “a disgrace”. 

“You’re only in the bottom of the barrel coming out with that kind of a statement. Cop on a small bit Taoiseach,” Healy-Rae said.

Goddammit that’s an awful thing to say, if someone belonging to you was going blind you wouldn’t like it.  

The Taoiseach attempted to calm the situation, telling Healy-Rae “you need to relax a bit now”. 

Later when tensions eased the Taoiseach apologised to the Kerry deputy:  

Just to say I apologise to Deputy Healy-Rae if there was any offence, I meant it in good faith, it was actually said to me by the way, and said to me by a clinician. Of course, you may not have realised who was who, but it was said to me.

Addressing the issue of the cross-border directive after this year, Martin said that Ireland will have to “do a separate agreement with Britain” but that a memorandum of understanding is being worked on. 

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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