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Thursday 30 November 2023 Dublin: 3°C
Oireachtas Taoiseach Micheál Martin during Leaders Questions this afternoon.

Salads and cycling aren't weird: Taoiseach comes to Eamon Ryan's defence amid Dáil criticism

Independent TD Mattie McGrath said Martin was drinking too much green tea and that it had gone to his head.

TAOISEACH MICHEÁL MARTIN has told the Dáil that eating salad is “good for you” and that cycling is not weird, in response to questions from an Independent TD.

Speaking during Leaders Questions this afternoon, Martin made the statement in response to Michael Collins, an Independent TD for Cork South West, who said that Transport Minister Eamon Ryan had made multiple “bizarre” announcements in recent months.

“Over the past few months, the Minister for Transport is making one bizarre announcement after another,” said Collins, before asking the Taoiseach about private bus companies availing of Government support to allow them to cut fares in rural parts of Ireland.

Collins referenced Ryan’s previous comments in the Dáil about growing windowbox salads and how people in rural Ireland should cycle to work rather than drive.

Ryan had previously told the Dáil in March 2020 during the initial stage of the Covid-19 crisis that Irish people should use their south-facing windowsills to grow salads in case of food supply shortages in later months.

“Let’s get every south-facing windowsill in this country and we’ll plant our seeds in the next week so that if there is any supply crisis in food in two or three months’ time when this really hits hard, we’ll have our salads ready to go.”

“Everyone’s home, every windowsill, all of us being part of the solution.”

Ryan is also a well-known cycling campaigner, who formerly co-owned the Belfield Bike Shop, and had previously called for rural areas to use carpooling rather than each owning a car.

He then walked back the comments, saying that his party did not want to restrict the use of cars in rural areas.

In response, Martin told the Dáil that “salads are good for you”.

“I don’t think it’s weird to enjoy a salad, I don’t think it’s weird to cycle either for that matter,” said the Taoiseach.

Collins had raised the issue of private bus operators being unable to cut their prices by 20% across the board, or by 50% for students. 

“If it goes ahead, will have a disastrous effect in rural communities as no local commercial operators can avail of the 20% or 50% reductions,” said Collins.

MichaelCollinsTD Oireachtas Independent TD Michael Collins Oireachtas

In response, Martin said that it was easier to cut public transport due to current legislative frameworks, but it was more difficult to deal with private operators.

“I think it’s very important that we reduce public transport fees… It’s not as easy, in terms of the private transport issue and we will continue to look at that to see how we can be supportive,” said Martin.

Green Tea-seach

The continuing controversy over the proposed restrictions on the sale of turf was also raised in the chamber this afternoon, with Independent TD for Tipperary Mattie McGrath calling for a debate on agriculture and “all things rural”.

“We need a full debate on agriculture and on the attack that’s going on rural Ireland… ye are on a different planet,” said McGrath, adding Tánaiste Leo Varadkar’s remarks to the Fine Gael parliamentary party that removing turf cutting would be like taking away wine from the French.

In response, Martin said that the taste of wine was more “berry-like” and that whiskey would be closer to peat, while calling for independent TD’s to “relax” on the turf issues.

Shouting across the chamber, McGrath said that Martin was “drinking too much green tea” and that it had gone to his head.

Earlier today, ahead of Cabinet, Martin said that a “pragmatic solution” could be found to the impasse around the restrictions on the sale of turf, while Minister Ryan confirmed that people could continue to cut turf for personal use.

“People will not be stopped from using their own turf, I don’t know how many times I have to say it in the House,” said Martin.

“It disappoints you that I say it because you want to believe that they will be, it’s a great campaign.

The substance of the issue is this: People who have their own bogs, no issue in terms of using turf. They can share turf with their neighbours, the traditional practices in relation to turf will continue.

He added that the measures will not be implemented ahead of this winter.

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