Heated Dáil row as McDonald says just eight affordable homes to be delivered in 2021

SF leader claims Taoiseach lacks ‘credibility’ on housing; he accuses her of ‘hypocrisy’

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has accused Taoiseach Micheál Martin of “lacking any credibility” on the delivery of housing after it emerged that only eight new affordable homes will be built in 2021.

Ms McDonald told the Dáil on Wednesday the figure could not be denied as it came in a recent parliamentary reply from Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien to Sinn Féin housing spokesman Eoin Ó Broin.

She said that despite a €310 million affordable housing scheme being unveiled in October 2018 no affordable homes were built in either 2019 or 2020.

But during a heated row on the issue Mr Martin accused her of “hypocrisy” and insisted that the Government was very focused on delivering affordable homes.


Rounding on the Sinn Féin leader, he claimed she was exploiting the housing crisis for political gain.

And he said Sinn Féin had opposed local housing developments that included affordable homes in many areas, including developments comprising more than 6,000 homes in Dublin City Council and Fingal County Council areas.

Raising the issue of affordable housing in the Dáil, Ms McDonald said it was “scandalous” so few affordable homes would be built this year.

“Is it any wonder we’re in a housing crisis?” she said as she told the Taoiseach he should be ashamed of the figure.

She said Mr Martin, who supported the Fine Gael government in 2018 in a minority arrangement, had welcomed the €310 million affordable homes scheme and had said his party influenced its delivery.

“You have said many times that housing will be your priority. You’ve said many times you want working people to be able to buy their own homes.

“You’re big on numbers, big on targets and very, very low on delivery,” Ms McDonald said. “You can’t actually spoof your way out of this one because the sum total of eight affordable homes for purchase will be delivered by the end of this year.”

The Taoiseach knew full well, she added, that so many people were paying huge rents, as much as €2,000 a month, and having just eight affordable homes “is a slap in the face to every person in housing need”.

The Government is simply recycling “failed policies” which lined the pockets of private enterprise and property developers.


“What I think is a scandal is the hypocrisy that emanates from you,” the Taoiseach told Ms McDonald, during tetchy exchanges.

“Sinn Féin has voted against every affordability measure at every turn,” he said, adding that the party opposed the help-to-buy scheme that helped 22,000 people get onto the property ladder.

Mr Martin insisted that "our policy is very much focused on affordable homes", adding that Fianna Fáil was not in Government in 2018 and 2019 and since the party came into office there had been two major lockdowns on building sites because of Covid-19.

He added that Mr O’Brien had passed legislation that underpinned affordability measures while construction was stalled.

Mr Martin said the Government has now put in place detailed housing plans, backed by funding of €4 billion per year, with co-ordination involving local councils and approved housing associations.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times