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Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaking in the Dáil this afternoon Oireachtas TV
Dáil row

'You can't handle the answers': Tempers flare as FG and SF clash over eviction ban

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald were involved in a war of words this afternoon.

THERE WERE CHAOTIC scenes in the Dáil this afternoon, as Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald exchanged barbs over the Government’s decision to end the eviction ban.

The fracas kicked off during Leaders’ Questions this afternoon, while Varadkar was responding to questioning about the ending of the eviction ban and the potential impact on families who will receive notices to quit.

Varadkar told the Dáil that Sinn Féin was attempting to create a “false narrative” that it was “landlords versus renters”, with McDonald responding “Jesus, Mary and Joseph” to his assertion.

As he continued to respond, there were raised voices from the Sinn Féin benches before Varadkar said that “Sinn Féin were back to their old ways again”.

“Sinn Féin are back to their old ways again. When you ask them about their finances, you get a deafening silence, they run and hide.

“Then when you try and actually answer their questions and I did try and answer their questions, they try to shout you down. What sort of party is that?” Varadkar said.

In response, McDonald said: “There’s no one shouting you down Leo, relax.”

Following the initial back and forth, McDonald again questioned Varadkar on what would happen to families who were set to be evicted following the ending of the ban.

“There are working families who are afraid of what lies ahead,” McDonald said.

“I asked you to say very clearly what does a family do in the coming weeks and months when they get a notice to quit, when they are evicted. Where does that working family go and I would like you to answer that question Taoiseach.”

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In response, Varadkar said: “I answered your question. Perhaps you couldn’t hear the answer because you were too busy shouting me down or the people behind you were too busy shouting me down.”

He said that the Government would continue to build social housing, ramp up cost-rental housing, buy up homes where landlords are selling up and provide additional measures for landlords and tenants at the next budget.

He also criticised Sinn Féin for their lack of action on social housing in Northern Ireland, while also questioning whether or not they had proposals on housing.

While he was speaking, McDonald cut in with comments, saying “stop it” and “this is a serious issue for families”.

MLMD_SFvFG Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald

In response, Varadkar said: “The reason why you consistently shout me down when I try to answer your questions, just because you can’t handle the answers.”

Following his criticism, Varadkar attempted to raise a point of order with Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl, accusing Sinn Féin of being a party “that can’t handle honest, democratic debate”.

While he did that, Ó Fearghaíl dismissed him with a wave saying it wasn’t a point of order.

Following this, Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty attempted to hit back at Varadkar before the Ceann Comhairle ruled him out of order.

“Deputy Doherty, you’re out of order,” Ó Fearghaíl said.

“It’s Leaders’ Questions, your leader has posed the question. You’re not the leader yet.”

Following the Ceann Comhairle’s interjection, McDonald sought to raise a point of order where she said that Sinn Féin had secured more votes than Fine Gael during the 2020 General Election.

“We are perfectly entitled to represent the people that we represent and to do so robustly. That is at the heart of democratic debate,” McDonald said, to calls of ‘hear hear’ from the Sinn Féin benches, while the Ceann Comhairle told her that it was not a point of order.

In one final attempt, Varadkar rose to his feet again and said that McDonald had “betrayed the truth once again”.

“Her party scored 24.5% of the vote and they think that gives them the right to shout everyone else down. That’s not democratic Deputy, that’s not democratic”.

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