‘Don’t lecture me’: Martin tells McDonald he had ‘far different’ upbringing to her in Dáil row

Sharp exchanges during Leaders’ Questions following criticism of housing policy

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has told Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald he had a “far different” upbringing to her during testy exchanges in the Dáil. Video: Oireachtas TV

 

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has told Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald he had a “far different” upbringing to her during exchanges in the Dáil on Wednesday.

There were sharp exchanges between the pair during Leaders’ Questions, after Ms McDonald said the Government needed to “get real” in terms of their housing policy.

She said a generation of renters had been “cast aside” by bad Government policies which continue to favour “big landlords” and “institutional investors”.

Mr Martin said Ms McDonald painted a narrative of him being “divorced from reality and all of that”.

“I just want to say, my background and where I grew up and what we had to put up with, was far different from yours . . . Don’t you dare lecture me. I understand the realities of life as well as anybody else in this House and I don’t intend to understand it more,” Mr Martin said.

“But I know a thing or two about people being in difficulty and challenges in their early lives in terms of cost of living and so on and in terms of backgrounds.”

Ms McDonald held up pictures to the Taoiseach of “a converted hallway”, costing €910 per month to rent, and of a storageroom, costing €300 a month, “probably considered good value in your housing market”.

She also showed rental accommodation in Cork where “you could touch your fridge if you stretched your feet out of your bed”.

“That’s the reality, Taoiseach, 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 said.

“While you’re there scratching your head, I’ve told you two things you can do that will work: money back into renters’ pockets by way of a tax rebate and a freeze for three years on rent. Do that and then we might believe, and more importantly generation rent and renters might believe, that you finally get it.”

Average rent

Ms McDonald told the Dáil earlier that the average rent is now in excess of €1,300 per month across the country and almost €2,000 in Dublin. Ms McDonald said this was “extortionate” and had “real consequences” on people’s lives.

“More than one-third of young people in their mid to late 20s live at home with their parents. Homeownership rates are collapsing amongst those aged between 25 and 54 and is it any wonder,” she said.

“How on Earth could anybody save the money for a deposit by forking out €2,000 a month to a landlord and that’s before they deal with the sky-high cost of energy, of food, fuel, groceries and of course childcare.”

Mr Martin said Sinn Féin and other parties had consistently opposed housing projects that would increase housing supply, such as in O’Devaney Gardens and Oscar Traynor sites in Dublin, which “does not stack up”.

“The performance on the ground in councils the length and breadth of the country cannot be reconciled with what you’re saying in this House at all,” he said.

He also claimed Sinn Féin’s public statements criticising the involvement of institutional investors in housing projects contrasted with assurances he claimed Sinn Fein was giving big business in private about how it would act if in government. Additional reporting: PA