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Dublin: 8 °C Tuesday 20 November, 2018
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Mary Lou had a row with a concerned citizen on Grafton Street this morning

“I just felt so incensed about it, I saw you here, and I had to say it.”

Source: Hugh O'Connell/YouTube

MARY LOU MCDONALD had a robust exchange with a man describing himself as a “concerned citizen” on Grafton Street in Dublin today.

The gentleman, a small business owner who declined to give his name and said he would probably vote Fine Gael, took issue with Sinn Féin’s plan to reduce private pension tax reliefs and other measures.

Opposition parties have claimed the pension tax relief changes would impact middle-income workers who would lose hundreds of euro annually under Sinn Féin’s plans.

At the launch of a Sinn Féin poster committing to abolishing water charges this morning, McDonald was asked about Gerry Adams’s two interviews with RTÉ yesterday in which he appeared to struggle on economic matters.

McDonald said she only heard “snatches” of the interviews which she described as “combative”. She added:

The policy is set out as it is and, I’ll be honest with you, anybody can fumble a figure in an interview… The issue around the third tax band, I think it’s very clear what Sinn Féin’s position on it is.

It was this point that the man interrupted proceedings and claimed Sinn Féin are going to “kill pensions for middle income people”.

This was the exchange that followed:

Mary Lou McDonald: No we won’t.
Concerned Citizen: So have you seen the figures or can your leader do the maths?
MLMcD: Sorry, who are you?
CC: Who am I? I’m a concerned citizen.
MLMcD: Okay, so we have done the maths, to answer your question. Sorry, I just wasn’t sure if you were a journalist, I didn’t recognise you.
CC: No, no, I’m not a journalist. I’m apolitical but I won’t be voting for Sinn Féin.
MLMcD: That’s fine, that’s your prerogative.

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Asked by a journalist why not, the man claimed that Sinn Féin are going to “strip the poor people of this country, middle income people”.

McDonald insisted this would not be the case and the exchange continued:

CC: My children don’t want to aspire to €69,000-a-year, where you bring in this USC. I think it’s appalling.
MLMcD: Okay, well just to answer you, and you are of course entitled to cast your vote in your own way, I absolutely respect that. But I would say to you that half of the workforce in this State earn €28,500 or less. So our package, it’s not about punishing anybody and it’s certainly not about stripping [people].

The man claimed that young people are going to be “taxed out of existence” under Sinn Féin’s plans and put it to McDonald that her party wants to “punish” people who work hard and try to make a life in Ireland. It continued:

MLMcD: No I don’t.
CC: You certainly do.
MLMcD: How?
CC: When the State loses more when someone’s unemployed than the person loses there’s something wrong there. You know, where you pay 59% tax?
MLMcD: Listen, listen, all I can…
CC: I am listening.
MLMcD: Yes, well what I can say to this… what I am saying to you is that you have to look at the proposals in the round. I understand that not all of our proposals will be universally popular.
It’s not universally popular to say that you want a third tax band, an additional €7 in every cent over €100,000 for people who earn that. Not everybody welcomes that, I accept that.
But I am being honest with you and I am saying that if we wish to balance the books, if we wish to protect society, protect services, to protect low and middle income families, then this is the formula to do it.
CC: The best way to do it, Mary Lou, is to generate wealth.
MLMcD: Yes.
CC: And increasing the public service, increasing taxes… you know, the cost of living in this country is pushed up by the high taxes we have and pushing taxes higher. Why are the Luas workers on strike? For 53% pay rises.
MLMcD: Well that’s a pay issue between them and their employer.

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The man then contended that Sinn Féin are going to “lamp” people who earn €69,000 before criticising Gerry Adams:

CC: What about their pensions? Have you looked at their numbers? I don’t think your party leader has, because he didn’t seem to know what was going on yesterday… I don’t support any political party.
MLMcD: Really?
CC: Yeah, really, really. No political party and I’ll chat with you anytime you want, Mary Lou.
MLMcD: Absolutely yeah. Okay, that’s fine. We can do that.
CC: Yeah, no political party, but I probably will be voting Fine Gael this time, probably, because they have USC at the highest level.
MLMcD: Well they’re abolishing it. It’s €4 billion off the balance sheet. So good luck when you go to your local hospital or… but anyway that’s a difference of views…
CC: Well do you wanna talk about the hospitals?
MLMcD: No, not particularly.
CC: You’re talking to someone who’s had personal experience and I can’t see Sinn Féin sorting that out.
MLMcD: Okay
CC: Okay, best of luck.

The man repeatedly declined to give his name, claiming he had no interest in talking but that “Sinn Féin annoy me with the way they go round”.

“I just felt so incensed about it, I saw you here, and I had to say it,” he added.

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About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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