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'Don't you dare lecture me': Sparks fly in the Dáil on housing

Leader’ Questions got heated today with the Taoiseach and Mary Lou McDonald hitting out at each other over housing issues. / YouTube

THE FIRST HEATED debate since the Dáil returned to full capacity took place today with sparks flying between the Taoiseach and Sinn Féin leader over housing. 

Mary Lou McDonald began Leaders’ Questions by asking the Taoiseach “how on earth could anybody can save the money for a deposit while forking out €2,000 a month to a landlord” on rent.

That’s before they deal with the sky high cost of energy of food, fuel, groceries and childcare, she said, before calling on the Government to introduce a tax rebate for renters and a rent freeze. 

Micheál Martin told the Dáil that housing is the single most important social issue facing our country at this moment in time.

However, the debate got heated soon after with the two party leaders hitting out at each other. 

The Taoiseach accused the Sinn Féin party leader of constantly peddling the narrative that he doesn’t get the reality of the housing situation. 

Holding up photos of places for rent right now, McDonald said one is a converted hallway costing €910 in rent and the other, rental accommodation where you can “touch your fridge if you stretched your feet out of your bed”. 

Screenshot (44) Mary Lou McDonald holding up photos of places to rent right now. Oireachtas TV Oireachtas TV

“That’s the reality… that’s the reality for Generation Rent. Don’t you dare talk to me about false narratives or claim that you understand the crisis. You clearly don’t,” she told the Taoiseach. 

Responding the Taoiseach said: “You paint a narrative in terms of me being divorced from reality and all of that. I just want to say to Deputy, my background, where I grew up 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 attend to understand it more.

“But I know a thing or two about people being in difficulty and challenging in their early days in terms of cost of living and so on, and in terms of backgrounds. I am saying to you that the most comprehensive solutions … have been adopted by this government in  Housing for All.

“Now we need cooperation across the board at every level. And if politicians really believe it is the crisis, then they should behave accordingly, and stop objecting in a serial manner, in a serial manner, to housing project after housing project because it doesn’t fit some ideological framework,” he said. 

“You can’t have it both ways,” he said. 

“I’m willing to work with all parties in this House, because this crisis is too big for politics,” said Martin.

“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,” he added, stating that he is open to proposals from everyone and open to ideas that will work.

Heckling from both sides of the House resulted in the Ceann Comhairle intervening telling TDs to stop trying to frustrate the House with constant heckling.

“I am going to respond by suspending the House. So please don’t make me do that. Please show a little bit of respect,” he said. 

The Taoiseach said that there have been 30,000 commencements in the last 12 months to September, but acknowledged that the shutdown of construction last year during the lockdown in the first half of the year “knocked them back a bit”.  

With reporting by Rónán Duffy

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