Taoiseach Micheál Martin has refused to retract comments he made about three opposition TDs when he called them “puppets” for President Vladimir Putin’s regime.
He was twice asked by Leas-Cheann Comhairle Catherine Connolly if he would withdraw the comment and he refused.
People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy repeatedly asked the Taoiseach on Wednesday to withdraw the comment about himself, party colleague Richard Boyd Barrett and Solidarity TD Mick Barry.
On Tuesday during questions on Ukraine, when asked about reports of Irish troops doing military exercises in north Co Cork, with Nato personnel present, Mr Martin said that “every time there is a question on Ukraine, and especially to do with refugees and humanitarian issues, the three Deputies opposite bring it back to Nato and the Russian argument”.
He said: “You guys are acting like puppets for Putin’s regime.”
In the Dáil on Wednesday Mr Murphy called on Mr Martin to withdraw the remark and said it was a “very serious allegation” for the Taoiseach to make that they were “agents of a foreign state, particularly a state like Russia”.
The Dublin Southwest TD said People Before Profit had a “very consistent record of opposition to Putin” and it was “our co-thinkers who are in prison in Russia for opposing Putin’s invasion of Ukraine”. He added that “while Bertie Ahern was shaking hands with Putin we were opposing the invasion of Chechnya”.
But insisting he would not withdraw his comments Mr Martin said that “this Parliament is the last bastion of democracy and free speech”.
“The Deputies opposite feel free to make all sorts of assertions and allegations against Government Members on a consistent basis, whether we are puppets of oil and gas or of Nato”.
The Taoiseach added: “I will always retain the right to speak freely in this House. The far left does not get the right to frame the narrative in this Chamber. I will not withdraw it.”
Mr Murphy claimed Mr Martin is accusing TDs of being agents of Putin “because they do not go along with the Taoiseach’s agenda of militarisation”.
The Leas-Cheann Comhairle said the Taoiseach would not withdraw the remark and “there the matter rests for the moment”.
Mr Murphy came back to the issue and said he had studied the “Salient Rulings of the Chair”, the regulations on Dáil procedures including appropriate language.
He quoted rule three rules including regulation 417 which states that “a Member may not say that another Member is taking orders or instructions from outside interests or is representing or speaking for such interests”.
And he asked the Leas-Cheann Comhairle “to instruct the Taoiseach to withdraw those remarks”.
But Mr Martin said Mr Murphy and others “have constantly made all sorts of allegations and assertions against me and against others in the Government and he seems to have no issue with them at all”.
The Leas-Cheann Comhairle said the remark was made on Tuesday and no one asked to have it withdrawn then. The Taoiseach said it was in the “rough and tumble of politics” and that was accepted on Tuesday “to a certain degree”.
Ms Connolly said “allegations have been made on both sides. I’m going to leave it like that for the moment.”