Sinn Féin has track record of ‘failing to respect’ Dáil, Taoiseach says

Martin says TD has no evidence to support claims about leak of Zappone appointment

Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan: expressed disappointment at the “rancorous” nature of the Dáil debate on the Sinn Féin motion against Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney. Photograph: Colin Keegan

Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan: expressed disappointment at the “rancorous” nature of the Dáil debate on the Sinn Féin motion against Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney. Photograph: Colin Keegan

 

Sinn Féin have a track record of “failure to respect” the Dáil, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said as he criticised the party for using parliamentary privilege to accuse Simon Harris of breaching Cabinet confidentiality.

During a no-confidence motion in Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney on Wednesday evening, prompted by the appointment of former minister Katherine Zappone as a UN envoy, Sinn Féin TD Matt Carthy claimed that “Simon Harris had leaked the appointment from the Cabinet meeting because that is how business is done”.

Speaking in Cork on Friday, Mr Martin said: “Let’s get real here: Matt Carthy has no evidence whatsoever. He admits he has no evidence. He threw it out there.

“Sinn Féin are into that type of politics. They have a track record in terms of failure to respect the house, the conventions of the house, privilege and they have abused privilege in the past.”

Asked by reporters about the leak, Mr Martin said “in recent times there have been leaks” and “it’s extremely important that what is being said at the Cabinet is kept within the Cabinet table”.

“But I’m going to concentrate all of my energies and our energies as a government on dealing with the bread-and-butter issues that face people. We have done well on Covid-19 – we’re emerging from it – and the big challenge now is to manage the challenge of capacity constraints as we reopen,” Mr Martin said.

Parliamentary privilege

Mr Harris, who is Minister for Higher Education, has indicated he plans to make a detailed complaint to the Dáil committee on procedures and privileges over how he was named as the source of the leak, which he has strongly denied.

Mr Carthy has defended his use of parliamentary privilege. However, when asked if he had evidence to back up his allegation, he said “no”.

On Friday, Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe said the Government should be concerned about the “isolated number of occasions” where Cabinet confidentiality had been breached.

However, he said, it was a matter for the Taoiseach and party leaders to decide whether an investigation was merited into the leak of Ms Zappone’s appointment.

Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue told RTÉ Radio he had “no idea” which Cabinet Minister leaked the appointment and “I don’t think anyone knows”. However, he said “it is certainly not something I do” and “everybody has to be very clear that it is not acceptable”.

‘Rancorous’ debate

Meanwhile, Green Party leader Eamon Ryan expressed disappointment at the “rancorous” nature of the Dáil debate on the Sinn Féin motion against Mr Coveney.

The Government is “very well-functioning” at present, Mr Ryan said, and its core focus is addressing the “real interests” of the Irish people.

“We have a lot of work to do and I believe we can do it well together . . . Yes, the Zappone incident was very unfortunate. It is unfortunate we went through a debate that was so rancorous the other night, in my mind,” he said.

Asked if it was frustrating for the Green Party to be in a government mired in recent controversy, Mr Ryan said he had learned that a politician should “beware of the moral high ground”. Mistakes need to be rectified and learned from, and deputies should be upfront with their colleagues when issues occur, he said.

“But being higher than thou or mightier than thou is not very clever, because you can be at the other end of it the next week.”

Speaking in East Wall at the launch of a near-M50 speed management system, Mr Ryan said he believed the Government would last its full term.

‘Sends a signal’

The Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications said electricity bills are partly increasing because gas prices are “rocketing” globally.

“That is something we don’t have control over. That is something that every country has to manage,” he said.

The rise in international gas prices “sends a signal” that countries need to move away from fossil fuels, Mr Ryan said.

“Depending on fuels for our security or financially is not a clever move,” he added.

Revenue raised through the carbon tax will go “straight back in to helping people and protecting people against fuel poverty”, he added. Looking towards the upcoming budget, the Minister said he would be examining more ways to protect people against fuel poverty.