Taoiseach accuses McGrath of taking Trump, Bolsanaro view of pandemic

‘Denial, denial denial’ says Martin after TD claimed indoor dining decision is ‘apartheid’

Taoiseach Micheál Martin accused a Rural Independent of taking the Bolsonaro and Trump approach in denying the existence of the Covid-19 pandemic, after Mattie McGrath accused him of making an “apartheid” decision about indoor dining.

Mr Martin also claimed during angry exchanges that if he had taken Mr McGrath’s advice about the virus far more people would have died and become sick.

The Tipperary TD had claimed the Taoiseach launched “an alarming, Dickensian and indeed apartheid decision” in relation to the proposals to allow indoor dining only for those who have been fully vaccinated against the virus.

He described as “shocking” the Government’s proposal to only allow people who are fully vaccinated to avail of indoor dining facilities.


The Tipperary TD called for an “independent inquiry into Nphet (National Public Health Emergency Team) from abroad, the way they have handled this” and told Mr Martin that “if Nphet said jump to the sky you’d jump”.

He also called for clarification about Communion and Confirmation ceremonies, which he claimed were going to go ahead in some places.

“Why are you victimising the Churches once again?” Mr McGrath asked the Taoiseach. “Nowhere in the paperwork does it say Communions or Confirmations can’t go ahead but yet the Tánaiste has said that they can’t go ahead.”

The HSE last week appealed to bishops and priests in the mid-west to postpone ceremonies, because of the increase in cases in the region.

Mr McGrath said "Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan (Waterford and Lismore diocese) said he's going to go ahead."

“It doesn’t say in the writing anywhere, so are you going to deny these young children their rights to have confirmation again.”

The Taoiseach insisted however that “my only concern is to protect people. It’s my only concern, my only motivation.”

He said there was a pandemic which had really devastated people’s lives but Mr McGrath retorted: “Who are you codding – 48 in hospital today.”

An infuriated Mr Martin rounded on the Tipperary TD and told him that “nothing ever added up for you during this pandemic.

“If I’d taken your advice from the beginning there’d be far more people dead as a result of the pandemic and there’d be far more people sick”.

“You’ve been in denial since the beginning of the pandemic.

“You’re approach is the Bolsanaro approach, it’s the Trump approach – denial, denial, denial about the existence of the pandemic.”


Later Independent Kerry TD Danny Healy-Rae returned to the issue and told the Taoiseach that “people all over the country are outraged at your decision”. He asked Mr Martin “who do you think you’re codding by meeting the hospitality sector today when ye decided their fate yesterday”.

Mr Healy-Rae claimed the Government had no plans for opening indoor hospitality and did not intend to allow them to open.

RTÉ correspondent “George Lee said it could be October before a decision would be made”, he added.

“What’s so different about the pubs and the small restaurants in the 26 counties and the rest of the world. The six counties in the north – they’re open.”

“We have more so-called scientists, professors, advisers and geniuses and yet we have no one with common sense,” he said adding that the people had been “totally and absolutely blackguarded”.

But the Taoiseach insisted that the objective is to protect people and said “it amazes me that people quickly forget how devastating this virus can be on people’s health”.

“It amazes me that in a few months people quickly forget what happened in this country.

“We should never underestimate the potential of this virus, through various variants, to wreak havoc. We’re in a better position because of vaccinations.”

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times