Labour accused of hypocrisy over motion for ‘fair start for every child’

Howlin accused of being a ‘blackguard’ during Labour’s time in coalition government

 Labour leader Brendan Howlin was accused of lecturing the Government on what to do while being a “bloody hypocrite” and a “blackguard”. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Labour leader Brendan Howlin was accused of lecturing the Government on what to do while being a “bloody hypocrite” and a “blackguard”. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

The Labour Party has been accused of hypocrisy in a heated Dáil debate over its motion calling for a “fair start for every child”.

Sinn Féin and Solidarity People Before Profit criticised cuts imposed during Labour’s time in the coalition government from 2011 to 2016 after the collapse of the economy.

And a row erupted when Independent TD Michael Healy-Rae accused Labour leader Brendan Howlin of lecturing the Government on what to do while being a “bloody hypocrite” and a “blackguard”.

Mr Howlin said that in more than 30 years in the House he had never seen such remarks go unchallenged.

But acting cathaoirleach Catherine Connolly said the former tánaiste had “repeatedly interrupted” and things were said “in the rough and tumble” of the Dáil.

Mr Howlin had called for the Government to take action to fulfil the aims of the first Dáil to “provide for the wellbeing, education and development of children, regardless of their origins and to give them all an equal chance to reach their potential”.

Child poverty

He said the Government must end homelessness and called for a comprehensive strategy to eliminate consistent child poverty with clear timeframes and quarterly reports.

Sinn Féin TD Dessie Ellis accused Labour of bringing in “some of the most vicious” cuts targeting some of the most vulnerable people in society, including the back to school clothing allowance, the fuel allowance, the one parent family benefit for children under seven and the carer’s allowance, and he said the party doubled student fees and axed the bereavement grant.

People Before Profit TD Gino Kenny said many people would never forgive the Labour Party for “social vandalism” and said that 130,000 children lived in consistent poverty which had been compounded by cuts introduced by Labour.

But Mr Healy-Rae’s very heated comments provoked Mr Howlin to call for him to withdraw his remarks.

The Kerry TD claimed that former minister Joan Burton, who was not present, was “brazen and cocky and didn’t give a damn about the people she was hurting”.

And pointing at Mr Howlin and accusing him of being a “bloody hypocrite”, he said of Labour “ye destroyed yourselves and you have the bloody cheek to come in here and lecture the Government”.

Labour hurt so many people but was wondering why it was “in the doldrums”, he said. He claimed that the party would “never again scrape yourselves up off the ground” and “when ye had power ye abused it”.

Staunch defence

In a staunch defence Labour’s housing spokeswoman Jan O’Sullivan said that in the worst of times the Labour Party in government “protected some of the most vulnerable of our citizens and we will not take the attacks that have come in this House”.

Her party’s efforts included the provisions of free GP care for children under five and special needs assistants, and she pointed out that it was the previous Fianna Fáil and Green Party government that cut €8 off every single social welfare payment. Ms O’Sullivan said that minsters were in an “impossible situation”.

But she said it was “very unfortunate that the entire spirt of the motion was thwarted by some members who chose to cast personal abuse”.

A vote on the motion will be held tomorrow.