‘Call me a liar’: Labour leader and Taoiseach clash in the Dáil

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‘Call Me A Liar’: Labour Leader And Taoiseach Clash In The Dáil ‘Call Me A Liar’: Labour Leader And Taoiseach Clash In The Dáil
Alan Kelly and Micheál Martin had a tense exchange in the Dáil today. Photo: PA
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By James Ward, PA

A row broke out on the floor of the Dáil amid an allegation that the Taoiseach said teachers would be exempt from Covid-19 isolation rules.

Labour leader Alan Kelly claimed Micheál Martin had told him in a private conversation on Tuesday that teachers would be exempt from new rules requiring all members of a household to isolate for five days if there is a positive case in the home.

The Taoiseach rejected the claims as a “total misconstruction” at a press conference held on Tuesday night to announce new pandemic restrictions.

 

In testy exchanges on Wednesday, Mr Kelly challenged the Taoiseach to “call me a liar” on the record of the House.

He said: “I did ask you about schools yesterday, as I’m very concerned about them, genuinely concerned about them.

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“I did speak to you afterwards after Taoiseach’s Questions and I said they will be additionally affected by the new five-day rule.

“I have young kids and my wife’s a teacher. Your reply to me was ‘no, teachers are exempt’. You know that.

“I know you’re very annoyed about it, right? Because you messed up. This wasn’t a total misconstruction.

“You even denied we had a conversation in here, which makes you look rather silly, considering there’s a video.

“So Taoiseach, in your reply, I’m not going to dwell on that because we have more serious things, if you want to call me a liar, call me a liar.

 

“You messed up, and you had to reverse immediately, which I’m glad you did, because teachers, SNAs and early years workers can’t be treated differently.”

Mr Martin denied saying what Mr Kelly alleged, and that his relationship with the Labour leader has been damaged by the exchange.

The Taoiseach said: “Deputy Kelly, I’ve been in the House longer than you. You learn something every day. We learn something new every day.

“I learned something about you yesterday that I will not forget, and that will govern our relationship from here onwards, in terms of the engagements.

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“I’ve never seen the likes of it before in terms of what transpired.”

Ó Ríordáin tweet

He said Mr Kelly had asked him nothing about household contacts on the Dáil record.

He added: “Suddenly you come over here for 30 or 40 seconds, you scamper up, you tell your education correspondent who tweets something, and it’s reported as fact.”

Mr Martin was referring to a tweet by Labour education spokesman Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, who said the Taoiseach had confirmed to Mr Kelly that teachers would be exempt from the five-day rule, adding that Government was “making it up as they go along”.

At this point, Mr Kelly interjected, saying: “If you want to call me a liar, call me a liar. What’s the difference between misconstruction and lying?”

Mr Martin replied: “I never said those words. I never said what you construed what I said. I rang you afterwards to make it very clear to you how I regard the interchange. You can’t do things like that.”

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Mr Kelly responded: “You’re also the Taoiseach who said the banks weren’t bailed out.

“Your roaring down the phone and threats in here don’t bother me. I’ll let the public decide who they believe. I think we already know.”

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