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26th Jan 2022

“Don’t you dare lecture me” – Taoiseach and Mary Lou McDonald clash in Dáil row

Stephen Porzio

The pair had a heated exchange over housing.

Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil became heated on Wednesday afternoon (26 January) as Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald clashed over the issue of housing.

Their exchange began as McDonald criticised the government’s handling of the housing crisis, stating that rents increased by over 8% last year and that the average rent is now over €1,300 per month in Ireland and a “staggering” €1,916 per month in Dublin.

“This has real consequences on people’s lives, Taoiseach,” she said.

“More than a third of young people in their mid-to-late 20s live at home with their parents. Home ownership rates are collapsing amongst those aged between 25 and 54.

“Is it any wonder? How on Earth could anybody save the money for a deposit while forking out €2,000 a month to a landlord and that’s before they deal with the sky-high costs of energy, of fuel, of groceries and of course, of childcare.”

She said the government’s approach was “failing”, that its rent caps do not work for rent pressure zones and that, for counties where they do not apply, renters are being “left struggling with astronomical rises”.

McDonald called for a tax rebate to “put money back in renters’ pockets” and a three-year ban on rent increases.

In response, the Taoiseach said housing was the single most important social issue facing Ireland at this time and that the government’s Housing for All strategy represents a “step change” in policy on the matter.

“It’s a whole of government approach to, first of all, increasing significantly supply and getting more houses built on an annual basis,” he explained, adding that while the government was “knocked back a bit” with Covid lockdowns, construction has recovered well.

“The good news is that up to 30,000 commencements have now been recorded to the 12 months up to last September. That’s very positive news.”

The Taoiseach then accused Sinn Féin of “consistently opposing housing projects that will increase supply”.

“Your proposals lack depth and lack substance, Deputy,” he told McDonald.

“Your legacy, Deputy, is your rubbishing every person who provides housing for rent because they are all leaving the market… because of the narrative that you have been putting through.”

Citing examples of the difficulties renters face, McDonald said that the Taoiseach “clearly” does not understand the housing crisis.

“You paint a narrative in terms of me of being divorced from reality,” Martin replied.

“I just want to say to you, Deputy, my background and where I grew up and what we had to put up with was far different to yours.

“Don’t you dare lecture me, okay. I understand the realities of life as well as anybody else in this house and I don’t intend to understand it more.

“But I know a thing or two about people being in difficulty and challenges in their early lives in terms of cost of living and so on and in terms of backgrounds.

“I’m willing to work with all parties in this house because this crisis is too big for politics.

“It’s not enough for parties just to simply try and exploit a crisis for their own electoral gain because the people out there do not believe in that.”

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