Dáil live: Absolutely no excuse for racism of any form, Taoiseach says

State should help mortgageholders after ECB rate hikes - McDonald


Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has been answering questions in the Dáil on nursing home charges legal challenge controversy, ECB interest rate hikes and the ongoing anti-immigrant protests. Continue watching Dáil proceedings live here:


Independent TD Thomas Pringle also brings up the rise in racism and says the far right are doing a “great job” of exploiting legitimate fears and stoking up racist behaviour. He says they are doing this under the guise of Irishness and nationalism.

The Donegal TD says emigration has been a massive part of Irish history and identity and that one million Irish people emigrated during the famine.

He says migrants are simply looking for the opportunity to have a better quality of life and that Irish people have never been denied this.


Solidarity TD Mick Barry brings up the far-right and says it has come to prominence through their support for anti-refugee protests.

He says the Government has handed racists their number one gift through its housing policy, which has forced record numbers into emergency accommodation.

Mr Barry says the Taoiseach sat idly by as thousands of homes were left vacant for six years or more.

In response to Mr Barry, Mr Varadkar says there is absolutely no excuse for racism of any form. He says he spoke to one of the leaders of a health trade union who says there have been protests outside of a Dublin hospital in recent times against foreign nationals who are members of staff in the hospital.

Mr Varadkar says this is “a low blow and a new blow”. He says this is really appalling and is something the Government will fight against.

Mr Varadkar says there will be a national action plan against racism which will be published in early March and this will be led by Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman.

He says racists and the far right will blame whatever the country is facing on migrants, adding “that’s the way it works, that’s the way they think”.


Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy raises the Attorney General’s report into the nursing home legal strategy and disability payments controversy.

Ms Murphy says it’s not surprising the AG has provided such a “staunch” defence of the legal strategy that was devised and endorsed by his own office. She asks if the Taoiseach is still happy to stand over that strategy.

In response to Ms Murphy, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar says this is a largely historic issue and relates to nursing home charges prior to 2005, over 18 years ago and disability payments prior to 2007 and perhaps even prior to 1996.

He says the State will do whatever is legally required and in the public interest.

Mr Varadkar says the AG’s report is now published and takes about 25 minutes to read and would encourage anyone to read it cover to cover.

He says the House will debate the issue tomorrow while the Minister for Health and Minister for Social Protection are going to study the matter with a further report due.

Mr Varadkar says the AG points out that the State’s only interest is the public interest. He says the AG points out the State is not a normal litigant. Mr Varadkar adds that it isn’t the case the State was being callous or operating like a company in the way it defends cases.


In response to the Sinn Féin leader, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar also expresses his sorrow for the people in Turkey and Syria.

He says Tánaiste Micheál Martin has allocated €2 million in emergency assistance to the Red Cross and the UN and will offer more if the State can.

Mr Varadkar says Governments don’t set interest rates but the rise in rates are most unwelcome. He says roughly 200,000 people have seen their monthly repayments going up and that the issue is being brought up at local constituency level.

Mr Varadkar says the ECB are increasing interest rates to help with inflation and he hopes we’re reaching the peak of the current cycle but that there is no guarantee.

He says the Government are currently reviewing what more they can do in terms of the cost-of-living crisis with an announcement due in the middle of February.

Mr Varadkar says mortgage interest relief previously cost €700m per year and that is not something the Government are currently considering but would not rule it out. He says he is happy to consider any proposals a party puts forward and would need to know the cost of Ms McDonald’s proposals.


Hello there, Sarah Burns reporting from Leinster House where Leaders’ Questions have just kicked off. Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald begins by noting the shock felt across the world at the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria and offers her solidarity to those affected.

Ms McDonald says the European Central Bank has increased interest rates for the fifth time since July of last year. She says Bank of Ireland and AIB are starting to increase their rates and tens of thousands of families and workers are paying hundreds of euro extra compared to this time last year.

The Dublin Central TD says this is on top of the cost-of-living crisis which is causing massive stress and anxiety for people.

She says she spoke to one person whose mortgage has increased by over €3,000 annually. Ms McDonald says her party have a motion later calling for mortgage interest relief to be introduced.

She notes the State can’t cover everything but can and should lend a helping hand, and that this is what is needed.