A heated exchange occurred between Independent TD, Michael Healy-Rae, and An Taoiseach, Micheál Martin, in the Dáil chamber when the issue of cross-border buses for patients seeking cataract treatment was raised.
Healy-Rae angrily rejected claims made by Martin that he approached mass-goers at churches in Co. Kerry about bus transport in Northern Ireland for cataract surgery.
“I was reliably informed through the chair that Deputy Healy-Rae approached people outside a mass to say I can get you on the bus if you want a cataract [procedure].” Martin said.
‘In the bottom of the barrel now’
In response, the Independent TD, said: “You should take that back! You’re a disgrace! You’re only in the bottom of the barrel now coming out with that sort of a statement.”
“Cop on a small bit, Taoiseach,” he shouted, to which the Taoiseach responded: “Ah, relax.”
“Don’t tell me to sit down,” said Healy-Rae, to which An Taoiseach said: “I’m not telling you to sit down.”
“It’s the truth,” said the Taoiseach, to which the Kerry native projected: “Goddammit that’s an awful thing to say, if somebody belonging to you was going blind.”
“Ah come on – calm down.” the leader of the country continued to repeat.”
An Taoiseach later issued an apology to the Kerry-based 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.”
Michael Collins, Independent TD, who initially raised the issue, also expressed anger following the debate.
In a post on social media, he said: “MOCKERY by our Taoiseach when the topic of people going blind is brought up.”
“This condescending attitude by a supposedly leader of our country is a disgrace. The people who have travelled to Belfast are taxpayers.”
“I’m unaware of why he thinks they are not, the work by myself, my family, my office is all voluntary and will continue to be as long as we can do this- to say I am disgusted would be an understatement.”
He said that over the past two years, he, along with Danny Healy-Rae, have organised buses to take 2,000 people from all across Cork and Kerry to Belfast for the surgical procedure.