The Taoiseach has stunned the Dáil by claiming the banks were not bailed out, when they were given €64bn in borrowed State liquidity that will take generations to pay back.
Micheál Martin appeared to have a brain freeze when he snapped at Richard Boyd Barrett TD: "The banks were not bailed out."
A surprising Boyd Barrett, Solidarity People Before Profit TD for Dún Laoghaire relied in astonishment: "They were."
The extraordinary rescue of the whole financial sector since 2008 has saddled every working adult in is country with a debt of €32,000.
The Taoiseach corrected himself: "Shareholders in the banks were not bailed out. The State took equity."
But in fact there was an error here too, because bondholders in Irish banks were not burned - not even in failed entities like Anglo Irish.
Former finance minister Michael Noonan had wanted to partially burn unsecured bondholders but was infamously told by Jean Claude Trichet, former boss of the European Central Bank, that if he did so a financial "bomb" would go off in Dublin, wrecking the rickety Irish economy.
The exchange arose on Opposition claims that a €3m Government offer for retraining of redundant Debenhams workers was an insult.
"The failure by the Government to ensure justice for these workers is appalling," Mr Boyd Barrett said.
"I remind the Taoiseach that he said he could not put money on the table because it would set a precedent.
"The sum of €18m is owed to the State by Debenhams.
"The Taoiseach did not mind setting a precedent when it came to bailing out banks to the tune of €64bn."
The Taoiseach interrupted to say Deputy Boyd Barrett was "acting the populist".
He said: "I am sickened by the way Deputy Boyd Barrett leads people up the hill all the time, pretending there are easy simplistic solutions."
His questioner told him it had been done for the banks.
The Taoiseach said: "The banks were not bailed out."
As TDs looked at each other in astonishment, Mr Martin eventually found a way to limit the damage.
The shareholders in the banks had not been bailed out, he finally clarified.
"The shareholders were not bailed out. That is not a popular thing to say, but it is a fact," Mr Martin said.
"Deputy Boyd Barrett never wants to hear the facts because he lives in a fantasy economic wonderland.
"If his party ever got into power thousands of jobs would migrate from this country."
Mr Boyd Barrett said there had been no worry about the implications of giving billions to the banks a decade ago, "but when it comes to workers who have worked for decades, who have done nothing wrong, and who are entitled, we cannot underwrite them.
"The Government is just standing idly by while the workers, who are the most decent people one could imagine, and who have worked for this company are cruelly betrayed. It is saying there is nothing it can do."
Mr Martin said: "I said that we would do everything we possibly could within the law."