Republic of Ireland news

Anger over taoiseach's remark to Sinn Féin TD that his 'balaclava had slipped'

Leo Varadkar queried why Mr Doherty did not condemned the attack on security staff

THERE were chaotic scenes in the Dáil yesterday after Taoiseach Leo Varadkar warned a Sinn Féin TD his balaclava had slipped.

Sinn Féin's deputy leader Pearse Doherty was warned repeatedly about his conduct after rising to his feet to demand an apology from the taoiseach.

It took several minutes for Leas-Ceann Comhairle Pat the Cope Gallagher to restore order.

The comment came when leader's questions led to discussion about the eviction of a family from a repossessed house in Co Roscommon.

Mr Doherty questioned Mr Varadkar over the eviction, which he described as "appalling" and an "act of thuggery".

"What happened in Roscommon was a disgrace, it was unjustified and brought to mind the scenes of our past where families were being evicted and thrown on to the side of the road," Mr Doherty said.

He urged the taoiseach to support "families, and not financial institutions" and further called for the laws around security staff who conduct evictions to be reviewed.

Mr Varadkar responded by saying the decision to evict was taken by the High Court.

"No one likes to see anyone evicted under any circumstances and particularly in the run up to Christmas, but the High Court does not issue eviction orders lightly in Ireland," he said.

"The High Court has a very high barrier for allowing eviction orders to be issued."

The Taoiseach added that he agreed that "proper regulation" was needed around the security staff who conduct the evictions.

"The minister for justice acknowledged that yesterday, he has established a departmental group to examine it with a view to them reporting to him in January," he said.

Mr Varadkar went on to query why Mr Doherty had not condemned the attack on security staff working at the site on Sunday.

Eight people were injured and a dog was killed during the incident at the house and farm in Falsk near Strokestown.

"I find it very concerning that you have nothing to say about that, you have not condemned that," Mr Varadkar said, amid shouting from Mr Doherty.

Mr Varadkar then sparked an angry reaction when he added: "When it comes to Sinn Féin and the rule of law and public order and condemning violence, it doesn't take very long for your balaclava to slip."

Mr Doherty asked for the comments to be removed completely from Dáil record and Mr Gallagher said that the conversation transcript would be checked in due course.

Later, Sinn Féin senator Niall Ó Donnghaile said on Twitter: "I've known Pearse Doherty a good few years, I’ve never seen him wear a balaclava, ever. What does An Taoiseach mean with his deflecting remarks towards Pearse in Leinster House?"

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