Kerry TD Michael Healy-Rae has defended his use of the term “away with you with the airy fairies” in an exchange with Tánaiste Leo Varadkar in the Dáil on Tuesday.
Responding to an article by Miriam Lord in The Irish Times, in which she wrote “He may have been thoughtless, but Healy-Rae was out of order. He should apologise.”
Mr Healy-Rae said that in his opinion “she got it wrong”.
When asked on RTÉ radio’s Liveline if would apologise for what he had said, the Independent TD responded “I can’t apologise when there is nothing to apologise for.”
Mr Healy-Rae said that anytime he has used the expression, he was using it to describe something that was nonsensical. He suggested that Liveline presenter Joe Duddy check the Dáil record about the number of times he had used the expression.
“All I wanted to do was to make a point. I would never set out to upset someone.”
Mr Healy-Rae said it was not a clumsy use of the phrase, if it had been the first time he had used the expression, that would be a different story. The whole argument was “lopsided” he said.
The Tánaiste “in his heart and soul” knew that Mr Healy-Rae would not abuse a person about their personal life which was “nothing to do with me.”
He “absolutely 100 percent supported gay rights” and dealt with issues facing gay constituents on a regular basis. If anyone asked him for help, he did so. It was unfair to try to make something out of it, he said.
When asked if he thought Mr Varadkar had been brave when he came out in 2015, Mr Healy-Rae said that it was “entirely his own business.”
Mr Healy-Rae said he had not been involved (on either side) in the campaign during the Marriage Equality referendum in 2015, but acknowledged that he had not voted in favour of the referendum.
“I did not set out to hinder anyone, they can do what they want. Why would I be against anyone for being gay. It’s their business, not anyone else’s business.”