Martin withdraws comment after saying People Before Profit would ‘put the jackboot on people’

Tánaiste said in Dáil that TDs Paul Murphy and Richard Boyd Barrett were ‘no great advocates of freedom of speech’

Tánaiste Micheál Martin had to withdraw a comment he made in the Dáil on Thursday, in which he said People Before Profit TDs would “put the jackboot on people” who might have different views to them if they were ever in authority.

Mr Martin said PBP TDs Paul Murphy and Richard Boyd Barrett were “no great advocates of freedom of speech”.

The Tánaiste, who is also the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, was answering questions in the chamber on Thursday morning.

Mr Murphy said the list of invited speakers at this month’s consultative forum on international security policy “gave the game away to an extreme degree” with only “one anti-war speaker”.


In response, Mr Martin said it was “shocking how you guys operate” and claimed People Before Profit TDs had an “intolerance for a wide variety of views of debate” and had also tried to attack the integrity of the forum’s chairperson in recent weeks.

“It is a sickening form of politics that you engage in Deputy Murphy, I find it abhorrent,” Mr Martin said.

The Fianna Fáil leader added there would up to 50 speakers at the forum and that if one or two of those had contrary views to Mr Murphy or Mr Boyd Barrett, the PBP TDs believed “they should not speak”.

“That is intolerance, you guys are no great advocates of freedom of speech at all,” Mr Martin said. “I shudder to think of the day when you would ever be in authority because by God would you put the jackboot on people who might have views different to you. That’s where you guys are coming from.”

Mr Murphy said it was a “shocking statement” and asked the Tánaiste to withdraw it, while Mr Boyd Barrett said it was “a disgraceful comment”.

Mr Martin said he would not and that he believed “fundamentally in the right to freedom of expression in this parliament”.

“I witnessed the Deputies opposite [Mr Murphy & Mr Boyd Barrett] make all sorts of comments about people,” he said. “It’s a bit rich for Deputy Murphy to be looking for ... he is getting somewhat squeamish now I would say.”

Mr Murphy said the Tánaiste was in breach of standing orders and was abusing Dáil privilege.

“Go and say it outside the Dáil like your disgraceful allegation that we were Putin’s puppets, say it outside the Dáil,” he said.

Mr Murphy added that “these consultative forums are an absolute farce” and part of a managed process. He said he had no problem with anti-neutrality or pro-Nato speakers but that he did have a problem with there being only one speaker at the forum in favour of neutrality.

“The thing is clearly rigged, you have a problem with that being pointed out,” Mr Murphy said.

Mr Martin said the Government had no plans to alter Ireland’s policy of neutrality and it was “not part of this conference”.

He said Mr Murphy had attempted to damage and undermine the bona fides of the conference and that it was open to the public, who could attend in person, watch online and make submissions, adding it was “openly transparent”.

Leas-Cheann Comhairle Catherine Connolly then asked the Tánaiste to withdraw the use of “jackboot” and that it was unparliamentary.

Mr Martin then said he would take back the word “jackboot” in “the instance of civility” but that he wanted the issue of freedom of speech in parliament referred to the Oireachtas procedures committee.

“I don’t like what’s happening here,” he said.

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times