Varadkar criticises Sinn Féin policies on housing, health and tax

Tánaiste says ‘no question’ that rising materials costs is issue for construction sector

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar claimed Sinn Féin has a "very scary set of policies", ahead of the resumption of the Dáil term and a vote of confidence in his deputy leader scheduled for Wednesday.

Speaking after the Fine Gael parliamentary party concluded its think-in at Trim Castle Hotel in Co Meath, Mr Varadkar went on the offensive over Sinn Féin policies on housing, employment taxes and health.

He accused Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald of planning to increase employers’ PRSI by 4 per cent, which he said was a “business harming, job killing” tax increase.

“This is a very scary set of policies being put forward by Sinn Féin, for anyone who is concerned about the economy, about housing, about health in particular,” he said.

He also criticised the party’s record on local authority votes on housing developments, saying there was a “real contrast between what the Government is doing, which is actually building houses of all types for all types of people, versus Sinn Féin, which is opposing housing.”

He said Sinn Féin health policies would also damage the sector.

“The last thing we need now when the economy is trying to recover is a Sinn Féin tax on jobs, and then also today, suggesting that the solution to our long waiting lists is cutting or capping doctors’ pay and getting rid of NTPF (National Treatment Purchase Fund),” he said.

Mr Varadkar said there is “no question” that the rising cost of building materials is an issue for the construction sector, saying it was a “very unwelcome development”.

Earlier on Tuesday, representatives of the construction sector warned labour and materials shortages could endanger Government home-building targets.

The Tánaiste said there were ways to mitigate its impact on the cost of houses, such as putting more State money into servicing sites and building infrastructure, and training up new apprentices.

He welcomed the British government's decision to delay plans to impose checks on imports into Britain, including imports from Ireland.

“That’s going to be very welcome for Irish business there’s a lot of concern particularly the food sector but more broadly that Britain, imposing those checks on imports going to Britain from Ireland would create further trade disruption, and could have a negative impact on business and jobs and I welcome the fact that they’ve decided not to proceed with that,” he said.

Richard Bruton, the parliamentary party chairman, said the think-in had been focused “a lot on the sort of challenges that families will be experiencing as they exit the whole Covid experience”.

He said there was also "an excellent debate on on the relationships in these islands and particularly the challenges that have been created in Northern Ireland after the Brexit deal".

The vice-chair of the parliamentary party, Jennifer Carroll MacNeill, said there had been a “very detailed discussion” on issues such as the intended vacant homes tax.

“Our conference has been full of that sort of detail,” she said, adding that the party was enthusiastic about the resumption of the Dáil term.

Ms McDonald on Tuesday defended Sinn Féin's motion of no confidence in Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney over his handling of the appointment of Katherine Zappone as a special envoy.

She hit out at what “crony politics” she claimed has been a feature of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil Governments for generations as she responded to Labour Party leader Alan Kelly’s argument that the no confidence motion is not a priority.

However, despite her severe criticism of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil she did not rule out going into Coalition with either party in the future, while emphasising that the best outcome of an election is a government without either party returning to power.

Ms McDonald was speaking as her party holds its pre-Dáil think-in meeting in Dublin.

Sinn Féin’s no confidence motion will be debated in the Dáil on Wednesday.