Taoiseach denies he told Kelly teachers would be exempt from new Covid rule

Labour leader accuses Martin of u-turn after ‘off-microphone’ Dáil conversation

Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Labour leader Alan Kelly have strongly disputed each other’s version of an “off-microphone” conversation they had in the Dáil.

Mr Kelly claimed the Taoiseach told him in the chamber that teachers would be exempt from the requirement of close contacts to restrict their movements for five days.

The party’s education spokesman Aodhán Ó Riordáin subsequently published a tweet about the exemption.

The Government press conference to disclose new Covid-19 restrictions was delayed for a short while amid confusion on the subject.


At the press conference, Mr Martin strongly denied he told Mr Kelly teachers would not have to adhere to the new rule, which also required three antigen tests during the five-day period of restricted movements.

He said Mr Kelly’s interpretation of the 40-second conversation was “a complete misconstruction”.

Mr Martin also said he had been taken aback by Mr Kelly’s comments and also expressed his annoyance at what he had said.

“No one is exempt,” he insisted.

However, in a developing row, Mr Kelly subsequently issued a statement standing over his recall of the short conversation in the Dáil chamber.

He said that he had walked across the Dáil and engaged directly with the Taoiseach on behalf of special needs assistants and teachers.

“The Taoiseach clearly told me teachers were exempt from this rule.

“I did not misconstruct what he said. Far from it.”


He said it was obvious that once the Labour Party had made public the intervention, the Government had reversed its position rapidly.

“It says so much about the incoherence of this Government that policy changes by the hour and at some stages they don’t know what u-turn they are even reversing,” he said.

The Dáil was adjourned for a short while on Tuesday afternoon after a Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley fell ill in the chamber but subsequently walked out after being attended by colleagues.

An adjournment was called and proceedings stopped for about 15 minutes.

It is understood Mr Stanley, who chairs the Public Accounts Committee, went to a nearby hospital as a precautionary measure.

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times