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12th Oct 2023

Micheál Martin hits back against claims Ireland is ‘like a third world country’

Stephen Porzio

third world country

The Tánaiste was grilled on Ireland AM in regards to Budget 2024 and issues surrounding children and healthcare in Ireland.

Tánaiste Micheál Martin has responded to Budget 2024 criticism, as well as to claims that Ireland is “like a third world country” when it comes to the availability of mental health to young children.

On Wednesday (11 October), the same day that Ireland AM hosts Muireann O’Connell and Tommy Bowe grilled Education Minister Norma Foley, the pair raised several issues with the Tánaiste during an on-air interview.

Discussing Budget 2024, which was unveiled on Tuesday, O’Connell said to Martin that it seemed as if important areas like “health and housing” had been “shoved to the side” of the financial plan.

Referencing comments made by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar promising a “budget for children”, she also highlighted that nearly 4,000 children are homeless in Ireland before asking the Tánaiste for his response.

Micheál Martin hits back at Budget criticism and claims Ireland is “like a third world country”

Replying, he said: “That’s not true. I mean there’s five billion in capital being spent on housing. This year, we will have a record number of social houses built in 2024, up to 9,600.

“We’ll provide 11,000 overall when you take 1,000 from leasing and 1,000 from acquisition but we’ll actually build over 9,000 social houses which is a record in decades in terms of house construction and then about 6,400 directly assisted affordable houses by the state.

“And if you take the First Home scheme, if you take the Help to Buy scheme which we’ve now said we’ll also continue right up until 2025, if you think of the grants that are available in terms of vacant houses or derelict houses – there’s an enormous suite of schemes and funding available to increase housing output because we need to build more houses.

“Last year, we built over 30,000. This year, we will reach our targets again. But we need to go beyond that and money and capital will not be a challenge to us in terms of housing.

“The challenge is more on the delivery side – to get through planning more quickly, to get through the various stages of projects, to get more modern methods of construction into play so that we can get more houses built more quickly.”

However, Bowe was not pleased with Martin’s response, telling him: “You say: ‘Ah sure, that’s not true,'” before noting how the Taoiseach had said he wanted Ireland to be the best country in Europe to be a child.

Highlighting the number of homeless children again, he said: “We also speak about the CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) situation.

“We had a psychotherapist on yesterday who declared the mental health situation and the availability of mental health to young children as like a third world country. There’s 4,000 children on a waiting list for just a one-off appointment.

“And then of course we were speaking last week, we had people on about their children needing… spinal surgery, that they’re in a race against time and they might have to wait for five years to get this.

“So, when you’re saying: ‘Ah, it’s not true’, there’s over 8,000 children there who will not be… delighted with what’s been offered yesterday.”

Martin then clarified that he meant it was not true that housing was sidelined in the budget.

third world countryTánaiste Micheál Martin

“That’s not true and it just isn’t good enough to make superficial and shallow comments about very serious issues,” he said – before claiming Ireland has seen a “dramatic change in house construction and in house delivery” in the last three years.

“That is objectively there in the metrics,” he noted – as he then denied that Ireland is a third world country.

“Don’t take my word for it. Look at the UN Quality of Life Index and look at most international indexes in relation to Ireland.

“We need perspective on this. Ireland is not a third-world country in respect of the services that we provide.

“We do have huge challenges. Of that, I’m in no doubt and in terms of the health service, yes, and in terms of spina bifida and scoliosis.

“The issue will not be resources in that regard. Again, as we’ve seen recently, it’s about delivery of services and the utilisation of that funding in an effective way and in a safe way and in a quality environment.”

Images via Twitter/IrelandAMVMTV

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