Jack Quann
Jack Quann

12.17 7 Oct 2020


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Independent TD for Kerry Michael Healy-Rae has accused Taoiseach Micheál Martin of acting 'stupid' and 'immature' in a row over cataract services.

In the Dáil on Tuesday, Mr Martin suggested the Healy-Rae brothers had benefited politically by sorting bus places for people who need cataracts surgeries in Northern Ireland.

The surgeries are funded by the State.

Mr Martin told the Dáil:"I was reliably informed through the chair that Deputy Healy-Rae approached people outside of mass to say 'I can can get you on the bus if you want a cataract [sic]'.

Deputy Healy-Rae shouted: "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 statement".

Later, Deputy Healy-Rae tweeted: "The Taoiseach made a mockery of people like Michael Griffin who had to travel to Belfast to save his eye sight.

"We never claim to fund these operations, rather we make it possible for people like Michael to show up on the day, walk on the bus and have nothing to worry about.

"The Taoiseach was nothing short of a disgrace in the Dáil today, he should be ashamed that people like Michael have to travel to Belfast to have cataract surgery instead of making untrue snide remarks in the Dáil and joking about it".

Speaking to Pat Kenny, Michael Healy-Rae said: "If you really want to read into what the Taoiseach was saying yesterday, I actually don't think he knew himself.

"If you pulled him aside today and said 'What exactly were you trying to say yesterday?', I don't think he actually would know.

"What he was doing and the way he was acting it was stupid, it was immature, and it certainly wasn't the way I would like to see the leader of this country acting and performing".

"To be making that sort of accusation and the way he said it - and the smirking and the laughing and joking - that is what I took exception to Pat, and that is why I was angry".

"I'd put it to you another way Pat: We've a very serious situation with regard to under-funding of facilities and services... for what I would call special people - they could be people with intellectual, physical or mental disabilities.

"And when I'm talking about that type of a subject, that's very serious - we've parents who are very elderly maybe, dealing with people who are at home and they're trying to avail of services.

"When I'm dealing with that sort of a subject, I would akin his reaction yesterday to he laughing or smirking at a subject like that.

"He did apologise afterwards - and do I accept an apology? Of course.

"A little bit like John F Kennedy the time he said 'When it comes to your enemies, you should always forgive you enemies'.

"And of course I always forgive my enemies and people who do stupid things, but I always remember their names".

Cross-Border Directive

He also explained about the service he was referring to in the Dáil.

"There is a facility available called the Cross-Border Directive, which is you can - in other words - buy the service in the North through this Cross-Border Directive.

"It's all above board: you make your application and you get pre-approval to travel to the North."

"I and others organise it - in other words I hire the bus, I send a lady with the group of people that are going.

"We block-book the hotel so we get the best rate on the buses, the best rates in the hotels.

"The surgeons come in, usually on a Sunday morning, and they carry out the operations.

"And everybody comes down the road in the evening, happy after having their operation.

"In a way it's a shameful exercise to think that we have to leave here and travel to the North to have operations that should be carried out here".

Main image: Independent TD Michael Healy-Rae speaking at a press conference in the Merrion Hotel, Dublin in 2018. Picture by: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

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Cataract Services Cross-Border Directive Dáil Row Michael Healy-rae Micheál Martin Pat Kenny

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