Miriam Lord: Micheál Martin and Michael Collins in unseemly exchange over who rang who

The Taoiseach enjoyed the row so much he couldn’t resist returning to it on Wednesday

A Dáil argument between Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Independent TD Michael Collins, in which the pair clashed over whether Collins had contacted Martin in relation to a fishing incident, has spilled over into a second day. Video: Oireachtas TV

 

As they say in call centres, the complaint has been escalated.

So now, alongside a Tánaiste under Garda investigation for inappropriate leaking, we may have a Taoiseach facing an Oireachtas grilling for inappropriate dialling.

For starters, on Tuesday in the Dáil that other West Cork political icon who goes by the name of Michael Collins nearly had to be dug out of Micheál Martin during an unseemly spat over ringing each other up and asking for favours.

The disputed conversations provided a twist to the more usual, “You hang up. No, you hang up” telephonic back-and-forth. In this case both men insisting, “You rang me. No, you rang me.”

The Taoiseach enjoyed the row so much he couldn’t resist returning to it on Wednesday, provoking a further eruption from the incandescent Collins, who revealed he complained about the Taoiseach to the Ceann Comhairle after Tuesday’s shenanigans.

Following the latest dust-up, the TD for Cork South West said on Wednesday evening he is making a second complaint because the Taoiseach’s further remarks about phone calls were “complete lies” and he is not letting the issue go.

The whole thing blew up when Collins asked for an urgent debate on “an international incident off the Castletownbere coast” last Friday. He said a Spanish-registered vessel illegally fishing in Irish waters attempted to ram a local trawler. The Navy and Coast Guard were alerted but it was 12 hours before help arrived.

While they waited there were several ramming attempts. The Goleen-based politician wanted to know why it took so long for anything to be done, having contacted a number of agencies and also called the Taoiseach’s office while the incident was happening.

This came as news to Micheál Martin on Tuesday. “Deputy Michael Collins didn’t ring me, and I think if the situation was that serious, he should have rung me, actually...”

Collins leapt to his feet. “I clarified that, Taoiseach. I rang your office in Dublin, I rang your office in Dublin that morning and they put me through to the Cork section and I got no reply since. I left a message.”

Retraction

As the Ceann Comhairle tried to calm the situation, Collins demanded a retraction from a bemused-looking Taoiseach.

“I’m sorry, but he has to correct the record.”

No chance.

“I will not. You know how to ring me. You rang me often enough in previous times.”

Michael C was apoplectic. “I never rang you, ever, in my life because I never got any satisfaction from ya!”

He couldn’t get no satisfaction? “You did when you were first elected,” smirked Micheál M.

Michael C lunged forward, outraged.

“You!” he bellowed, stabbing his finger at the Taoiseach from across an uncrowded floor. “You rang me looking for a vote and I knew...”

“You did,” squeaked Micheál, lapsing into Roy Keane falsetto. “You wanted to do a deal.”

“...I knew you would turn your back on the people of West Cork, and I wouldn’t vote for ya. Never once, never once did I ring you.”

The Ceann Comhairle battled to keep order.

The Taoiseach, a picture of innocence, needled away.

“You were trying to get a deal done for yourself. You were talking to everybody.” He was referring to the aftermath of the last election, when certain unaligned TDs angled for favours in return for supporting his government.

“Never once. Never once,” quivered the Rural Independent deputy. “Shame on you to lie!”

But Cork city boy Micheál was feeling no shame.

So Michael Collins took his upset to the Ceann Comhairle’s office, seeking redress for the wrong he says was done to him by the Taoiseach, who made “false allegations” in parliament.

Corrected

He wants the record corrected about the post-election phone calls, unless proof to the contrary is produced.

And there the matter rested.

Collins raised a different matter on Wednesday. He said an independent report states that Cork county is not getting a fair share of grants and a task force should be established to examine why.

“I haven’t seen that report and I don’t buy it, incidentally,” replied the Taoiseach, listing off how much money is in the pipeline for projects. “People can commission reports to get the outcomes they might want.”

Furthermore, nobody in Cork County Council in “official circles” said anything to him about this.

And then, as if struck by an afterthought, he had one more thing to say to deputy Collins. Judging by the bold look on his face, he knew exactly what he was up to.

“Eh, just by the way, to wrap up,” Micheál said, lighting the blue touch paper and moving away. “I checked with my two offices – they did not get any phone call from you last week.”

Boom!

“Excuse, on a point of order. Excuse me! That’s a disgraceful comment. I can prove it with the records of my phone that I rang your office in Dublin on Friday and you also misled the Dáil yesterday by saying that I rang you looking for favours and you never did [ring him looking for favours]. And you have to prove that and that’s going through the Ceann Comhairle’s office at the moment.”

The TD says the only telephone conversation they had was when Micheál Martin rang on the night before he became Taoiseach seeking his support in the Dáil vote, which he declined to give.

“He said I rang looking for some kind of deals privately, I want proof of that.”

He’ll be waiting a long time.

High seas

And then the Taoiseach, for sport, tells the Dáil again that there were no calls to his office about Friday’s incident on the high seas.

“He is trying to discredit me by throwing it in again today. And this was a very serious crisis off the Irish coast. So I’m going back to the Ceann Comhairle in the hope he will ask him to apologise to me on the floor of the Dáil. I have the proof and I’m not leaving this go.”

Oh, the drama.

Michael C says he rang the Taoiseach’s office to alert him to the crisis and a woman at the other end said “oh, that’s a Cork issue” and put him through to the “Cork section” where he left a message saying the Navy had to be deployed urgently and the Taoiseach needed to know. He followed up with emails to his private office and his department’s office.

And now, the clincher. The Hercule Poirot of Goleen blows Micheál’s no departmental calls from Collins story out of the water.

“I can easily prove that because I have the two emails,” he said on Thursday night. “I have them and proof of time and I am just waiting for my phone records to come through before going to see the Ceann Comhairle again.”

Maybe he should just give him a buzz.

At the very least we must be looking at a full tribunal.

Either that or pistols at dawn in a neutral venue, maybe Kerry, may be the only way to solve this.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.