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16th Nov 2021

Confusion reigns as Taoiseach and Alan Kelly in quarrel over Dáil exchange

Stephen Porzio

Neither of the leaders are backing down.

A quarrel has broken out between Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Labour Party leader Alan Kelly regarding what was said during a private exchange between the pair in the Dáil.

At the Taoiseach’s address on Tuesday evening (16 November), he announced a range of new restrictions to combat rising Covid cases and hospitalisations, one of which was a rule requiring household contacts of a confirmed case to restrict their movements for five days and take three antigen tests.

However, prior to the address, Kelly claimed Martin told him that teachers would be exempt from the five-day stay at home rule.

Before the Taoiseach’s speech, Labour’s Education Spokesperson Aodhán Ó Ríordáin tweeted: “Taoiseach has confirmed to Alan Kelly that teachers are to be exempt from the proposed ‘5-day stay at home rule’. Making it up as they go along.”

However, no mention of teachers was made during the Taoiseach’s speech, with the Government later clarifying that teachers were not exempt from the rule.

Quizzed over the exchange with Kelly at a post-address briefing, the Taoiseach denied making the comments.

“There was no exchange in the Dáil about it at all… It was a very brief – I’d say 40 second – engagement. We talked about schools,” Martin said.

“I’m very annoyed about it. I’ve spoken to him – a complete misconstruction.

“I made it very clear. Regardless of vaccination status, household close contacts should restrict movement for five days pending completion of recommended antigen testing. No one’s exempt from that.”

However, in a statement released later in the evening, Kelly denied misconstruing what the Taoiseach said.

“At promised legislation today in the Dáil I raised concerns about frontline workers, in particular teachers and SNAs and the need for booster shots for them,” the Labour leader said.

“After Questions in the Dáil, I walked across the Dail and engaged directly with the Taoiseach on their behalf. I don’t believe teachers should be discriminated against or treated differently so I raised concerns about the impact the proposed five-day rule for household contacts of confirmed cases would have on schools.

“The Taoiseach clearly told me teachers were exempt from this rule. I did not misconstruct what he said. Far from it.

“It’s obvious that as a result of my colleague and our Education Spokesperson Aodhán Ó Ríordáin bringing this to public attention that the Government reversed 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 turn they are even reversing.”

The full list of new Covid restrictions is available here.

Main images via Leah Farrell and Sasko Lazarov /

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