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Dublin: 9°C Saturday 26 September 2020

Joan and Mary Lou just had a massive row about a metaphorical woman's shopping list

Low and sneaky, ‘Thatcherite’ … Take it from us, Mary Lou McDonald’s not happy with the coalition’s new Irish Water measures.

HIGH NOON ON a Thursday.

In Leinster House, that can only mean one thing – another must-watch clash between Joan and Mary Lou across the Dáil chamber.

Last night’s much-trumpeted measures to take outstanding water charges from wages and social welfare payments were, as expected, the main topic for debate in Leaders’ Questions.

And as the two women faced off in typically combative fashion – first Fianna Fáil, and then a poor unfortunate (entirely metaphorical, luckily for her) cash-strapped mother got caught up in the crossfire.

What daily necessities did the Tánaiste propose this sleepless woman give up, to pay her unjust and unfair water tax, the Sinn Féin TD asked.

Burton responded with a quick swipe at Micheál Martin’s party, blaming them for the “disastrous crash in the economy” before going on to talk up the coalition’s record in getting people back to work.

She also hit out at SF’s “hostility to work,” saying that to listen to their ‘mantra’:

You would think that people on a social welfare income had no ambition for themselves or their children.

Clearly unhappy with that answer, McDonald launched into an even more detailed description of the woman who featured her initial question, describing how she was “raising a household of small children” and “doesn’t sleep at night with worry”.

What items should this poor woman strike off her shopping list to pay her water charges, McDonald again demanded.

Hitting out at last night’s announcement, she said it appeared Burton wanted to give this woman even more sleepless nights “as she worries about how and when your hand will be stuck into her pocket or her purse [to] take bread off the table, and from her children”.

The measures to target wages and dole payments, she said, were sending a message to people on low incomes “that if they don’t cough up, you’re going to stick your hand in their pocket anyway”.


Alluding, perhaps, to that slight mixing of metaphors (bread – in a purse?) Burton rounded off the Dáil’s big ticket event of the day with quick review of her opponent’s performance, saying the ‘tirade’ had been a little hard to follow.

Do you think, deputy, that you’re running some kind of kangaroo court?

The measures will make a clear distinction between those who can’t, and those who won’t pay, Burton re-iterated several times – saying there were a “whole set of structures” in place to help people who have trouble paying their bills.

In any case, if she’s on social welfare, the woman is already ”getting very strong support from the state,” the Tánaiste added.


Read: Landlords could TRIPLE deposits in response to Irish Water billing move

Read: ‘There are people who will never work, who are allergic to work’: Noonan

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