Varadkar delusional about housing crisis, says McDonald

Taoiseach calls Sinn Féin’s motion of no confidence in Murphy as tactical and cynical

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar with Minister for Housing  Eoghan Murphy. File  photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar with Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy. File photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

 

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has accused the Taoiseach of being “delusional” about the housing crisis as Leo Varadkar in turn claimed her party was only interested in scoring political points.

The Dáil on Tuesday night debates a motion of no confidence in Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy and there were sharp exchanges about the Government’s efforts to deal with the housing problem.

Ms McDonald said the Taoiseach should focus on holding Mr Murphy to account rather than threatening to sack Minister of State Catherine Byrne amid reports she was considering voting against Mr Murphy.

Mr Murphy told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland on Tuesday that he hoped to meet Ms Byrne before the vote.

“I hope that she won’t be pulled into this Sinn Féin stunt later this evening,” he said.

With Fianna Fáil committed to abstaining on the vote under the confidence and supply agreement, Mr Murphy is likely to win the vote.

Ms Byrne, a Fine Gael TD for Dublin South Central, and Mr Murphy have disagreed over a large affordable housing scheme in her constituency.

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Speaking in New York on Monday, Mr Varadkar said if Ms Byrne did not vote confidence in the Minister for Housing, she could no longer continue as a Minister herself.

“It’s of course the case that if a Minister can’t express confidence in their own colleagues, that they can’t continue as a Minister,” Mr Varadkar said.

“We’re a Government, we’re collective, we make decisions together, and if a Minister doesn’t have confidence in another Minister and votes that way then obviously they couldn’t continue. But, as I say, she hasn’t had that conversation with me yet.”

Desperation

Ms McDonald claimed Mr Varadkar was “immune” to the desperation of people who were among the thousands who protested in Dublin city centre at the weekend, and the almost 4,000 children currently sleeping in emergency accommodation.

“You are delusional because you stand up as head of Government and you claim that your plan is working and Fianna Fáil assist you in that regard,” Ms McDonald said.

Mr Varadkar said however that her party did not have a monopoly on empathy. He said “the Dáil is back and Sinn Féin is looking to score political points”.

He described the motion tabled by Sinn Féin, calling for Mr Murphy to be removed from office as “pure politics” and “tactical, cynical, personalised and ineffective”.

Even if passed, the motion would “not house a single person, nor would it help us to build houses any quicker than we are already”.

To repeated heckling the Taoiseach added that in local authorities where Sinn Féin had control they repeatedly objected to housing projects.

He said 14,000 houses were built last year and up to 20,000 would be built this year including unoccupied houses brought back into use and student accommodation.

Mr Varadkar insisted that by 2020 up to 25,000 houses a year would be built and pointed out that the population had grown by 60,000 a year and this was contributing to the requirement for increased housing.