Republic of Ireland news

Taoiseach and Mary Lou McDonald clash over north-south coronavirus strategies

Micheál Martin and Mary Lou McDonald clashed in the Dáil over whether the Irish Government or the Stormont Executive was providing greater assistance to homeowners in the midst of the pandemic
Michelle Devane, Press Association

A row has erupted between the Taoiseach and the leader of Sinn Féin over the strategy for dealing with Covid-19 on both sides of the border.

Micheál Martin and Mary Lou McDonald clashed in the Dáil today over whether the Irish Government or the Stormont Executive was providing greater assistance to homeowners in the midst of the pandemic.

Mr Martin said: "The first thing you could do is talk to your party colleagues in the north and get them to do much better in terms of mortgage breaks.

"They're only offering a three-month payment break that can be extended after an assessment unlike the Irish payment break that offered six months in total without assessment.

"You need to get your own house in order.

"You continue to lecture people here all the time about what we should be doing and you don't do it and deliver it where you have power and where you are in Government.

"And it's always someone else's responsibility but never yours.

"That is always your story."

The Taoiseach made the comments after the Sinn Féin leader called on the government to meet the banks to ensure they assisted homeowners who are struggling to meet mortgage repayments.

Ms McDonald said mortgage breaks should have been extended weeks ago and claimed a "cosy relationship" between Fine Gael and the finance world was the reason the government had "sat on its hands" on the issue.

She also said an all-island approach to tackling Covid-19 was needed to halt the spread of the virus.

Mr Martin said he had discussed an all-Ireland approach with party leaders in Northern Ireland but Ms McDonald knew more than anyone else in the Dail chamber of the "difficulties and sensitivities or trying to reach an agreement within the North, never mind on an island basis".

"As to whether they're going to move to a higher level or not, is a matter for Northern executive district, and they've had challenges and difficulties in arriving at the decision rules," he said.

Meanwhile, a further 13 deaths due to Covid-19 have been confirmed in the Republic by the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet).

An additional 1,269 cases of the virus have also been reported.

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