Tuesday 6 December 2016

'Sinn Féin is terrified of the facts' - TDs pay debated again in Dáil chamber

Published 20/10/2016 | 13:23

Sinn Fein Vice President, Mary Lou McDonald, speaks to the media on the Plinth at Leinster House ahead of t Budget announcement. Photo: Laura Hutton/Collins Photo Agency
Sinn Fein Vice President, Mary Lou McDonald, speaks to the media on the Plinth at Leinster House ahead of t Budget announcement. Photo: Laura Hutton/Collins Photo Agency

Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar has accused Sinn Féin of being “terrified of the facts” when it comes to the party’s record in Government in North Ireland.

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During a heated debate in the Dáil, Mr Varadkar said Sinn Féin voted to transfer a series of powers over to Westminster because it was afraid of making decisions over social welfare.

The row erupted after Sinn Féin’s deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald hit out at the salaries paid to TDs and ministers.

The Dublin Central TD said her party will introduce a motion on the matter, adding that there is no “public tolerance” for pay increases at a time when the pension was increased by €5 and the dole to under 25s increased by €2.70.

Ms McDonald said the public are sick of what she described as the “political brass neck” being displayed by Government.

Mr Varadkar hit back and insisted that ministers will forego all pay restoration. He added that the Government believes strongly that TDs’ pay should remain linked to the principal officer’s grade in the civil service.

“We don’t want to go back to what you want to do which is politicians deciding what they are paid,” the Dublin West TD said.

But there were heated exchanges after Mr Varadkar raised Sinn Féin’s record in the North, where it shares power with the DUP.

“You tell pensioners and people who are unemployed, and carers, and people with disabilities, that they are worth less than €100 per week,” Mr Varadkar said.

He said Sinn Féin voted to hand over responsibility for social welfare cuts to Westminster.

And he called on the party to spell out what it does with the money paid to its TDs given its policy is for them to take the average industrial wage.

“Sinn Féin is terrified of the facts and they really hate the truth being spoken about them in this chamber,” he said.

Also during leaders' questions, Mr Varadkar was pressed on his vision for childcare by Green Party leader Eamon Ryan.

Making the jibe that Mr Varadkar sees himself as a contender for the Fine Gael leadership, Mr Ryan asked why stay at home parents are being discriminated as a result of the childcare package.

Mr Varadkar joked that there may not be a leadership contest for another two years.

Earlier, Fianna Fáil called on the Government to set up a special fund to help exporting businesses deal with the uncertainty caused by Brexit.

The party’s Transport spokesperson Robert Troy said businesses are very worried and that the Government must do more to “shield” them from potential shocks.

“We are told the Budget was Brexit-proof, that’s not the case,” Mr Troy said.

In response, Mr Varadkar said he could not commit to the proposal for a new fund “off the hoof”.

He outlined various measures contained in the Budget in response to Brexit, such as the hiring of 50 additional staff in the IDA and Enterprise Ireland.

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