Oireachtas staff will be able to get free antigen tests from next week.
At a meeting of the Dáil's Business Committee this morning TDs were told from next week Oireachtas staff - including TDs and senators - will have access to free antigen tests.
The news prompted frustrated reactions from some Government and opposition politicians, amid growing calls for the rapid tests to be free for the general public.
The Houses of the Oireachtas service - which is independent of Government - has since pushed back against the reports, saying the tests will not be free to TDs and senators.
They said tests will instead be provided to staff who have to be on site - such as ushers and caterers.
However, members of the business committee have insisted they were told the service would be free to politicians as well.
Clarity from the Oireachtas here 👇
Business Committee members who were briefed earlier say they were told it would be free to politicians as well https://t.co/MaFQCij0wp
— Seán Defoe (@SeanDefoe) November 18, 2021
It comes as the Government has continued to insist it won't give free antigen tests to the wider public, with plans for subsidised tests instead.
Government parties have today said they plan to cover the cost of antigen tests for their politicians and staff.
In the Dáil, Minister Eamon Ryan stressed the decision for free testing for staff was made by the Oireachtas service as an employer rather than a Government decision.
Fine Gael TD Neale Richmond said he'll continue to pay for his until tests everyone has free access to them.
Social Democrats TD Gary Gannon, meanwhile, had said it was "indefensible" that politicians were getting free antigen tests while teachers and children in primary schools are still waiting.
He clashed with the Ceann Comhairle in the Dáil over the issue this lunchtime.
Deputy Gannon said it was "ludicrous" that TDs would be getting free tests, but the Ceann Comhairle claimed it was "completely untrue".
'Please get your facts correct!' The Ceann Comhairle and Gary Gannon clash on whether or not TDs will be getting free antigen tests pic.twitter.com/XgbnjAyvAA
— NewstalkFM (@NewstalkFM) November 18, 2021
In an earlier statement, the Dublin TD said: "Schools are under severe pressure from the current onslaught of COVID cases and testing is desperately required to identify cases and suppress transmission.
"Meanwhile, a proposed subsidy scheme, for antigen tests for the wider community, has also not been announced yet.
"This means the cost of antigen tests are prohibitive for many who would otherwise use them."
He said the Government now needs to prioritise the 'most vulnerable' sectors, including schools.