Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said it is “a little bit precious” of the Social Democrats leader Holly Cairns to question criticism during sharp exchanges in the Dáil on Tuesday.
Mr Varadkar has also said if the motion of confidence in the Government fails on Wednesday, the Dáil will be dissolved and the eviction ban would lapse.
The Taoiseach was speaking during Leaders’ Questions, with the Opposition ramping up pressure on the Government for allowing the eviction ban to expire by forcing two further Dáil votes this week as a result of the controversial decision.
The Labour Party has tabled a motion of no confidence in the Government, while Sinn Féin has proposed legislation that would see the eviction ban extended into 2024.
Meanwhile, a report compiled for the Cabinet has found that the Government has potential to build at least 60,000 “affordable” homes on public lands but still faces big hurdles unlocking State property for housing.
Ms Cairns said despite “lofty promises” from the Government, the Land Development Agency (LDA) had yet to “deliver a single home on State land”.
She said it took the LDA five years to complete a review of the State’s property assets, adding “it’s like some kind of a sick joke”.
The Cork South-West TD said the “abject failure” of the LDA to live up to the Taoiseach’s promises was “the latest betrayal when it comes to housing”.
The Social Democrats leaders also said Mr Varadkar’s “attacks” on the Opposition had become “as predictable as they are weak” in relation to objections to new house builds.
Ms Cairns said such attacks “sound increasingly desperate” and claimed that the Taoiseach “continued to blame” the Opposition for the housing crisis, citing objections to local housing developments.
“Your legacy on housing is one of repeated and abject failure ... we all know it’s not the Opposition’s fault,” she said.
In response, Mr Varadkar said he had never argued that the housing crisis was the Opposition’s fault and that Ms Cairns was “trying to put words into my mouth”.
The Fine Gael leader said it was “dishonest politics from the Social Democrats to try and put that across” and that he was happy to answer Ms Cairns’ questions and have a robust debate.
“But Deputy [Cairns], it’s a little bit precious for you to say that nobody can say anything back to you,” Mr Varadkar said.
“You know, how dare we question your claims? How dare we point out the progress that is being made? How dare we bring some balance to this debate? It’s a bit precious to say that you shouldn’t be subjected to any criticism, that there should be no scrutiny or that it’s okay for you to shout us down when we dare to talk back to you.”
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald urged every TD to support her party’s bill telling them “don’t vote to evict your own constituents into homelessness”.
People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said it was “utterly shameful” that some Independent TDs were “horse-trading” with the Government over local issues in exchange for their support.
Mr Boyd Barrett said such TDs “should be ashamed of themselves” and that despite the Green Party saying they were against evictions into homelessness in their pre-election statement, they would vote “to put thousands of people into homelessness”.
Mr Varadkar said it was up to Independent TDs “to decide for themselves” whether they wanted to vote confidence in the Government and they “shouldn’t be browbeaten by you [Deputy Boyd Barrett] in that regard”.
“You also should be honest about the effect of a motion of confidence. If the motion of confidence fails tomorrow morning, if the Opposition is successful then the Dáil will be dissolved tomorrow evening,” he said.
“There will be an election sometime in April, the Dáil won’t meet again until sometime in May and the eviction ban will have long lapsed. That’s a simple fact.”