Tánaiste Joan Burton has accused Independent TD Mick Wallace of “putting Irish people at risk” by repeatedly linking Shannon airport to US-led wars during a heated Dáil exchange which saw her called “Ireland’s answer to Tony Blair”.
The Labour leader criticised the Wexford TD, who is facing charges of unlawfully entering the facility to inspect US military planes in July 2014, during a series of angry scenes at the final Leader’s Questions debate before the Christmas break.
Responding to claims from Mr Wallace that “the dogs on the street know we are not neutral any more” and “we have taken sides”, Ms Burton said the comments are unhelpful and will do little to change matters.
She told the Independent TD this country is a neutral island nation and that Mr Wallace’s remarks are “putting Irish people at risk” simply “for the sake of some media coverage”.
The Tánaiste said she “opposed the war in Iraq” and continues to seek ways to resolve conflicts “as much as possible”; stressing that her record in politics and while working in Rwanda during the aftermath of the 1990s genocide makes this “very clear”.
However, while concluding that the Independent TD’s claims that Ireland is no longer neutral because of the US military’s use of Shannon airport “do not stack up”, the remark led to a furious reaction from the opposition benches.
Hitting out at the Government’s approach to what he described as the “military” facility in Shannon, Mr Wallace said “we facilitate the warmongering of the Americans” and have contributed to “two million deaths” in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last 10 years.
The Wexford TD continued that “when Labour was in opposition they were in favour of checking planes, but not one plane has been checked”.
The comment was repeated by Independent TD Clare Daly, who called Ms Burton “a disgrace”.
“Tony Blair of the Irish Labour party, that’s what you have been reduced to, you are actually a disgrace,” she said. After a long silence Ms Burton responded: “You should check out some of your own friends in England and what they get up to.”
The debate earlier saw similarly heated exchanges erupt over the health crisis facing the State next year, with Ms Burton asking leas ceann comhairle Michael Kitt if he was able to regain control. Addressing Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh, the Tánaiste warned: “We want to see more women in this Dáil precisely to avoid the kind of behaviour you’ve just indulged in. A bar-room brawler, a bar-room brawler, you’re a disgrace.”
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