A group of TDs who made a prank phone call to Mattie McGrath from the Dail bar, on the night before the budget, would have been better off looking after their own constituents and working on the budget, according to the South Tipperary TD.
‘Pizzagate,’ as it has come to be known since the story of the prank broke at the weekend, took place last Tuesday night, when the South Tipp deputy was part of a sit-in at a Dublin bank, in support of a farming family.
The five TDs, including Deputy McGrath’s constituency colleague Tom Hayes TD, rang the independent TD pretending to be from a pizza takeaway restaurant and said they too didn’t like the banks and so would send him food.
Speaking to The Nationalist about the call, this week, Deputy McGrath said he fell for the prank “hook, line and sinker.”
A diabetic, the Newcastle deputy said that he had not eaten since breakfast at 8am that day, and said that when the call came “I was hungry, I was tired, I was quite weak.”
However, because of his condition he had just left the Friends First bank building to return to his hotel in Bray for nourishment. He asked the ‘pizza restaurant’ to deliver food to those who were still in the bank and asked them to make sure there was pizza for the two female gardai who were on duty in the bank because of the sit-in. He then rang the group in the bank to say food was on the way.
At 2am he got a call to say the food never arrived. It was only much later that next morning, when he adjourned to the Dail bar for a morning coffee and scone after the Order of Business in the Chamber, and his request was met with the barman’s answer: “would you like a pizza?” that the penny dropped and he realised he had been pranked.
“I remember Brian Lenihan, on the night before a budget, he would be in his office. These fellas would be much better off with Michael Noonan, fighting off attacks on carers and farmers. I’m trying to represent my constituents and if Tom (Hayes) doesn’t like that it’s his business.
“It was very insensitive. The prank was on me, fine, but to let it out into the media is a pity. We have enough of problems to deal with. It gives the image we are all up in the Dail bar making a feck of it. They will have to answer to the electorate.”
In his defence, Deputy Hayes said he arrived at the Dail bar for a coffee at 11pm that night, after working in his office, to be told there was rumour that Deputy McGrath was on a hunger strike.
He said he had worked 14 hours that day and is fully aware of the issues among constituents who are in financial difficulties.
He said many people had come to him for assistance “but I do it secretly and behind the scenes.”