Independent TD Mattie McGrath has said that Taoiseach Micheál Martin and his government have become an “existential threat to democracy,” in response to the announcement that the government’s emergency powers would be retained for a further six months.

“I am very concerned by the leaks from the Cabinet yesterday regarding the extension of the emergency powers for another six months,” Deputy McGrath said.

“I honestly believe that the Taoiseach and his Government have become an existential threat to our democracy. That the Government is trying to push this in here to control people, deny them their rights and freedoms and literally destroy their will to live is shocking.

“It is being done without any debate in this House. The Taoiseach has not met Opposition party leaders or group leaders since November. He is stonewalling everything. Stonewalling is his new mantra. He stonewalls when a question is asked and then he puts it back on the person asking the question or gives them a lecture. He will probably give me a lecture now in a minute.

“It is outrageous that the Government could contemplate extending the powers for a further six months. We are meant to be coming out of the crisis and we are meant to be opening up but this is what the Government is at. It is all about control. That happened in Germany in 1933 and that is how it started there.”

Taoiseach Micheál Martin replied that he took exception to McGrath’s reference to 1933 in Germany.

“It is unfortunate in the House of late that politics and politicians get compared to Nazi Germany. This is the second time in recent weeks that Deputy McGrath has articulated that and I think it is bringing the Parliament to a low level, to be frank,” said the Taoiseach.

“I call it as it is,” McGrath shot back.

“Public health is about saving people’s lives and the only reason for the public health Act was the pandemic,” continued Martin.

“No Government wants to be introducing the kind of measures that we have had to introduce for the last 12 months, but we do it on public health advice to protect people’s health and to save lives. The legislative framework is required to enable Government to take those initiatives and it will be debated in the House. I ask the Deputy to refrain from using that kind of language. It is wrong. I think it is unparliamentary.”

“It is clear to be seen,” said McGrath.

This is not the first time McGrath has made the comparison about the Taoiseach, making a similar reference to 1930s Germany several weeks ago.

At the time, the Taoiseach had a similarly negative reaction – however, it was pointed out that Martin himself has used the term “fascist” to brand his own political opponents in the past.