Soothe things over | 

TD presented Health Minister Stephen Donnelly with child’s soother during meeting

The two men have been at loggerheads, with Mr McGuinness coming down hard on Department of Health secretary-general Robert Watt’s ‘extraordinary salary’

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly. Photo: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

Philip Ryan

IT HAS emerged that Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness presented Health Minister Stephen Donnelly with a child’s soother at a party meeting, as the pair’s ongoing public spat continues to rumble on.

Mr McGuinness made the presentation at the end of a Fianna Fáil parliamentary party meeting after Mr Donnelly brought up a 15-year-old controversy involving the backbench TD’s wife during a radio interview.

Mr McGuiness approached the minister at the top table of the meeting and handed him the soother, saying he hoped it would help “soothe things over” between them.

Mr Donnelly is believed to have not taken the offer well and did not accept the soother.

Fianna Fail TD John McGuinness (Oireachtas TV/PA)

When his offer was rejected, Mr McGuiness said: “Are you sure you won’t take it for yourself or Robert (Watt)?”

The minister’s spokesperson said Mr Donnelly will not be commenting on the incident.

It is understood the soother belonged to one of Mr McGuiness’s grandchildren.

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On Tuesday, the minister launched a scathing attack on Mr McGuinness when he was questioned about the TD’s criticisms of his trip to a Dubai health and wellness conference in January amid the controversy over Mr Watt’s salary, which is nearly €300,000.

Mr Watt is Department of Health secretary-general.

“I note that John McGuinness, when he was a junior minister, flew to Dubai and Chicago and many other places and quoted [Friedrich] Nietzsche, I think, at his line minister, saying why family members should go with him,” Mr Donnelly told RTÉ Radio One’s Today with Claire Byrne. “So I won’t be taking any lectures from John McGuinness.”

Mr Donnelly was referring to Mr McGuinness complaining in 2007 to then Enterprise Minister Micheál Martin that he could not bring his wife on State visits to Dubai and Canada.

Mr McGuinness responded by saying the minister should resign if he cannot account for his involvement in the controversy surrounding Mr Watt’s salary.

He said Mr Watt should also consider his position over the long-running controversy. He also accused the two senior figures of showing contempt to the Oireachtas Finance Committee by refusing to come before them to discuss Mr Watt's salary top-up of €81,000.

Mr McGuinness said the minister was trying to “divert attention from their unusual trip to Dubai” and the “extraordinary salary”.

“I reject entirely any attempt by Mr Watt or Mr Donnelly to use me in an effort to take the spotlight off their trip to Dubai (and) Mr Watt’s salary increase,” he said.

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