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Taoiseach accused of ‘downright lies' in heated Dáil exchange

Taoiseach Micheál Martin. Picture by Julien Behal/PA Wire
Dominic McGrath, PA

The Taoiseach was accused of lying about Sinn Féin housing policy, during a heated leaders’ questions in the Dáil.

Micheál Martin faced questions from Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald, who urged his government to introduce a three-year rent freeze to tackle the spiralling cost of living.

The call comes as a new report from property website showed that rents rose nationally at an annual rate of just over 10% in the last three months of 2021.

Ms McDonald accused Mr Martin of presiding over a “nightmare of your construction” for renters.

“On your watch, affordability has gone out the window,” the Sinn Féin leader said.

Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, she said, had “made homeownership a pipe-dream for an entire generation”.

A government rent cap is a “failure,” she said, adding that there had been a failure to deal with institutional investors and cuckoo funds.

An entire generation, she said, feels “battered, bruised, exhausted and sold-out”.

“I have been asking you, until I am blue in the face, to cut rents by means of a tax credit putting €1,500 back in renters’ pockets and to ban increases in rents for three years.”

“Take this opportunity, Taoiseach, to finally make the difference to the renters of Ireland.”

Hitting back, Mr Martin defended his government’s housing policy but also admitted that rents were too high.

“The State is putting in, in terms of investment, the largest amount of capital ever in terms of affordable and social housing.”

“We cannot wish away, Deputy, the basic laws of supply and demand. We need more supply and we need it as quickly as we can.”

He also said that Sinn Féin had consistently opposed housing developments.

“I find it hard to reconcile the definition of a crisis with wholesale serial objections to projects that would give us really badly needed supply.”

Citing the report, he said that that the solution was to build more homes.

Yet amid the back-and-forth, Sinn Fein housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin shouted over the Taoiseach to accuse him of lying about his party’s housing policy.

“I am fed up with this Taoiseach lying about what Sinn Fén councillors are doing,” Mr Ó Broin said.

“They are downright lies,” he shouted across the Dáil chamber.

Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl interjected: “It’s not acceptable to accuse any member of the House of lying.”

He asked the Sinn Féin TD to withdraw the comments.

After protesting, Mr Ó Broin said that he would substitute “lying” for “wilfully misleading the House”.

Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy raised the same issue later.

“Do you ever question that you could be getting this wrong?

“Fianna Fáil have got it wrong before. Do you ever question that you’re talking to the wrong people?

“It’s only going to be a question of time before we see people, young people, queuing up at the airport to leave this country. And they’re going to be doing it because they can’t live in it.”

Ms Murphy said that she had warned for years of the need for a massive social housing programme.

“I’m sick to death of predicting things that turn out to be right.”

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