Former minister blasts Donnelly for 'foot in microphone disease'

Senior FG TD listed three recent errors while 'ranting about how bad the current FF health minister is'
Former minister blasts Donnelly for 'foot in microphone disease'

Former rural and community development minister Michael Ring TD launched a 'vicious attack' on health minister Stephen Donnelly at last night's Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting. Picture: Gareth Chaney

Former Fine Gael minister Michael Ring has launched a blistering attack on Stephen Donnelly and called on the Tánaiste to raise the health minister's mistakes with the Taoiseach.

In what was described as a "clear and vicious attack" on Mr Donnelly, the Mayo TD told his Fine Gael colleagues that the minister is suffering from "foot in microphone" disease.

In what was read as also being a slight dig at higher education minister Simon Harris, Mr Ring told a meeting of the parliamentary party there "must be something in the water" in Wicklow as, once people see a microphone, they cannot shut up.

Ring 'was ranting about Donnelly'

Mr Ring called on Tánaiste Leo Varadkar to talk to the Taoiseach about the performance of Mr Donnelly.

He referred to three mistakes in recent days made by the health minister, listing the problems with the hotel quarantine system, the new regulations introduced prohibiting religious services, and his suggestion that those aged under 30 could be prioritised in the vaccine rollout.

"He was ranting about how bad Donnelly was," one Fine Gael member said.

Varadkar 'shocked' by under-30s story

Responding, Leo Varadkar said he was shocked to wake up to the under-30s story on Saturday. However, he said it was appropriate that Micheál Martin had dealt with the issue and nobody else.

Separately, Mr Varadkar raised Sinn Féin’s use of social media and its online database, telling party members that there is “more in the story”.

Mr Varadkar commended Senator John Cummins for the body of work he has produced on the issue adding that there is "more in it".

Return of religious services 

At the Fianna Fáil meeting, both Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Health Minister Stephen Donnelly made clear a resumption of in-person attendance at religious services is likely from next month.

Mr Donnnelly told TDs and Senators that he had a good meeting with Archbishop Eamon Martin, and said a return to Mass is being considered for May, echoing earlier comments from the Taoiseach.

Mr Martin wrote to Church leaders yesterday evening acknowledging their concerns about a safe return to public worship. He assured Church leaders that the Government will meet next week to give careful and “positive consideration” to reopening places of worship from May 4.

Kilkenny TD John McGuinness said religious services must be allowed now:

It's a disgrace that you walk the aisles in big stores but you can't have more than 10 in a huge church. 

Mr Martin told the meeting that the country is in a better position now than had been modelled, as all the indicators are holding steady. This is thanks to everyone for complying with the restrictions, he said.

He said that, next week, the Government will focus on lifting the restrictions over the month of May on click and collect and non-essential retail, while saying that hairdressers and barbers have suffered a lot and will be prioritised.

'Vaccine target still on course'

He said the Government also hopes to reopen the rest of the construction industry.

Mr Martin said that, while challenges on vaccine delivery exist, the target of vaccinating 82% of adults with one dose by the end of June still stands.

Junior health minister Mary Butler told the Fianna Fáil meeting that the party's national executive is unhappy about the level of leaks from parliamentary party meetings on a weekly basis.

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