The redevelopment of O’Devaney Gardens in Dublin would have been completed a long time ago “if it wasn’t for people playing politics with it”, according to Taoiseach Micheál Martin, who also accused Sinn Féin of “rewriting the narrative” around the housing project.
There were sharp exchanges between Mr Martin and Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald in the Dáil on Wednesday.
Speaking during Leaders' Questions, Ms McDonald raised a story which appeared in the Irish Sun that the O'Devaney Gardens site developer Bartra warned it would sell 500 homes to a cuckoo fund if the Government did not buy them all for a set price believed to be close to €400,000 per apartment.
A €400 million redevelopment of O'Devaney Gardens in Dublin 7 is made up of 10 apartment blocks with 1,047 units. The project, given the green light by An Bord Pleanála last year, is about 40 per cent larger than the original schemes backed by Dublin City Council in 2019 and is significantly different to the low-rise project initially envisioned.
Ms McDonald said the developer was “effectively trying to blackmail the taxpayer and is using the powerful presence of cuckoo funds as leverage”. She said this wasn’t their “first act of bad faith” with delays in building the homes and challenging planning decisions, and that the developer was now holding the Government “to ransom”.
“The fiasco at O’Devaney Gardens is a mess of the Government’s own making. Government was warned at the time and again that this was a terrible deal for tenants, for homeowners and for the taxpayer,” Ms McDonald said.
“You were warned that sidelining the local authority and gifting public land to private developers was a really bad idea.”
Ms McDonald said if ever there was "a salutary tale and lesson of Fianna Fáil in Government – the party of the Galway tent, brown envelopes and a cosy relationship with developers," it was O'Devaney Gardens.
In response, Mr Martin said Sinn Féin was “rewriting the narrative again today” because “unfortunately for you the housing issue has been all about politics”.
“O’Devaney Gardens would have been built a long time ago if it wasn’t for people playing politics with it. It’s either the Sinn Féin way or the highway,” he said.
Mr Martin noted that Ms McDonald had talked about the “corrupted nature” of the Government’s relationship with developers, adding that Sinn Féin was “the last party to talk to anybody about corruption”.
“Your party corrupted public life in this Republic for well on 40 years, to a far greater degree than any other party in this country. You corrupted the moral code of our country and our society by the murder and mayhem that you perpetrated and that you still endorse. You still endorse it, you still support the narrative of murder and mayhem and so forth,” he said.
“You also support the undermining of women that were raped by IRA volunteers and your party covered it up. Do not come into this House, lead with your chin, telling this party that we were corrupt. We had faults and flaws, no doubt about it, but we faced up to it . . . you consistently try and rewrite the narrative, bury the truth about the level of corruption that your party engaged in.”
Ms McDonald repeatedly shouted across the chamber that Mr Martin was “pathetic”.