Martin left red-faced over senator's misquoting claim
FF Seanad leader tries to backtrack on support for Fine Gael coalition talks
Published 24/01/2016 | 02:30
Fianna Fail's Seanad leader has caused huge embarrassment for his party leader Micheal Martin over a conflicting claim that he was misquoted on his views of forming a coalition with Fine Gael.
Senator Darragh O'Brien last weekend told the Sunday Independent he was open to holding talks with Fine Gael after the election if Fianna Fail was the larger party.
However, during an interview on RTE Radio One's This Week last Sunday, Mr Martin, who is under severe pressure over his coalition stance, claimed Mr O'Brien told him he had been "misquoted".
The Fianna Fail leader was defending his position after the Sunday Independent revealed his leadership was under serious threat over his opposition to doing a deal with Fine Gael.
"Well, Darragh O'Brien has been on saying he was misquoted to me," Mr Martin said.
But in a bizarre response to his party leader's comments, Mr O'Brien insisted he never said he was misquoted and even claimed he had not read the Sunday Independent before Mr Martin's interview.
"I didn't actually read the article on the Sunday ... and effectively it is the job of the largest party to form the Government so I don't know what quote you used," he said.
When told what was printed and detailed in notes during the face-to-face interview, Mr O'Brien responded: "I'm not sure about that but I'll beg to differ with you on that."
However, he added: "In no way shape or form would any of us call anyone a liar or misquoting, that's not it if that's what you are inferring, under no circumstances."
Fianna Fail's Dublin Fingal candidate also distanced himself from Mr Martin's comment saying: "I wasn't on the radio on Sunday as you know. I answer for what I say myself.
"What I said, I said. And it was very much in the context of being the largest party, and I'm not going into any other discussion I may or may not have had with someone else. That is frankly my own business and that's it, so I'm not having this discussion now," he added.
When asked how he could have passed comment at all on the story to Mr Martin when he had not read the paper, Mr O'Brien said he meant he had not bought the paper but rather had read it online.
Fianna Fail went into panic on learning of Mr O'Brien's comments on the party leader's on-air claim.
Mr Martin's spokesman insisted he would "not get into any details" of the conversation the Fianna Fail leader had with Mr O'Brien.
"If you have Darragh accusing Micheal about lying there's nothing we can do about that, but I would be very surprised if that's what he did," he said.
And in another twist, Mr O'Brien then sought to clarify his comments after he was contacted by Mr Martin's office. "I never accused Micheal Martin of lying, never, never in a million years have I done it.
"You're understanding of a conversation is completely different to mine," he said.
Mr O'Brien said "the premise" of the conversation he had with Mr Martin was that he made no comment on any potential heave against the Fianna Fail leader.
"I have always supported the leader's view," he said.