Eoin Ó Broin comments on Government economist ‘totally wrong’, says Sinn Féin TD

Party’s housing spokesman claim that civil servant should be sacked ‘not Sinn Féin’s position’

Sinn Féin has distanced itself from comments made by the party’s housing spokesman Eoin Ó Broin, who said the Government’s chief economist should be sacked.

While Mr Ó Broin has said he no longer stands over the remarks, he also said he does not believe that John McCarthy should be advising the Coalition on housing policy.

Following criticism of the comments from Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, Sinn Féin TD Kathleen Funchion said on Sunday that Mr Ó Broin’s remarks were “totally wrong”.

“That is not the Sinn Féin position. He has acknowledged that those comments are completely inappropriate, and they are completely inappropriate,” she told RTÉ's The Week in Politics, adding that she was “setting out what the Sinn Féin position is, and it’s not that. There’s a very clear difference between those who work in the Civil Service and those who are Ministers ... Those comments were totally wrong, off the cuff or not. There’s a total difference between people who are civil servants, doing their jobs.”


Ms Funchion insisted that it was Ministers who should be held to account.

Mr Ó Broin made the comments at the Night & Day festival in Roscommon and they were subsequently reported by the Irish Daily Mail. During the discussion, Mr Ó Broin said he believed Mr McCarthy “should be sacked”.

“You have a guy who knows nothing about housing, nothing at all. He is a very, very orthodox, I would almost argue evangelical, economist, in terms of seeing things. He was the kind of economist who advised governments to do the sort of things they did before the crash and he is still in the position he is in.”

Asked on Sunday about Mr Ó Broin’s remarks, Mr McCarthy declined to comment.

While Mr Varadkar described them as “chilling”, Mr Martin said “these type of personal derogatory comments about civil servants have no place in Irish politics”.

‘Off-the-cuff comment’

Mr Ó Broin rowed back on the comments this weekend but told RTÉ that he still believed Mr McCarthy should not be informing Government housing policy.

“It was an ill-judged, off-the-cuff comment made during a conversation on the housing crisis. I was deeply frustrated with the advice given to the Government that they should not increase investment in housing,” he said. “I don’t believe the individual who gave the advice should be sacked. But I also don’t believe he should be informing Government housing policy.

“At a time when an ever-growing number of people cannot access affordable homes, and increased investment in social and affordable housing is required to ensure those people can access affordable homes, such ill-conceived advice is a contributory factor to the housing crisis,” he added.

A spokesman for Sinn Féin said the party was happy that the matter is now concluded following Mr Ó Broin’s statement.

Ms Funchion also distanced her party from comments made by a Sinn Féin councillor who said his area was being used by the Government as a “dumping ground” for refugees.

In a Facebook post last week, Roscommon Cllr Michael Mulligan said “legal refugees” should be “placed in work” and “illegal refugees” should be “sent back to where they came from”.

Ms Funchion said this did not reflect the party’s views. She described his comments as “absolutely appalling” and “totally and utterly unacceptable”. Ms Funchion said the councillor was instructed to take down the post.

The Taoiseach last week accused Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald of “playing both sides” on Ukrainian refugee issues.

Mr Martin sparked a furious reaction from the Sinn Féin benches in the Dáil when he responded to Ms McDonald’s claim that the Government was “not content with denying our own people the right to an affordable secure roof over their heads” but was extending its “catastrophic failure to those coming to Ireland seeking humanitarian assistance”.

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times