Monday 26 September 2016

Tanaiste Joan Burton and Mary Lou McDonald's bitter clash over new water proposals

Published 07/05/2015 | 13:11

Mary Lou McDonald and Joan Burton
Mary Lou McDonald and Joan Burton

There were angry scenes in the Dail today as Tanaiste Joan Burton and Sinn Fein deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald clashed bitterly over the Government's new water proposals.

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Ms McDonald accused the Coalition of introducing a "sneaky" package of measures that will push hard-pressed families into further poverty.

The Dublin Central TD referred to today's Irish Independent report which details a speech delivered by Finance Minister Noonan during which he claimed some unemployed people are "allergic" to work.

"Ask him to desist from insulting and condescending language towards people outside of work," Ms McDonald told the Dail.

The Sinn Fein politician described the Government's debt collection measures as "Thatcherite", adding that Fine Gael and Labour are showing "contempt" for people on low incomes.

She was referring to the decision to allow public utilities like Irish Water to obtain attachment orders against the wages and dole payments of those who refuse to pay their bills.

Fianna Fáil Health spokesperson Billy Kelleher also criticised the proposals, which he described as "draconian".

He said Ms Burton's legacy is recent figures which show 1,000 children are living in emergency accommodation in Dublin.

But Ms Burton insisted the measures surrounding attachment orders stem from a 2010 Law Reform Commission report which recommends that the threat of jail as a last resort be removed.

She told the Dail that systems will be put in place to ensure those on social welfare do not fall beyond reasonable level of incomes.

Ms Burton also took a swipe at some left wing TDs who say they will refuse to pay their bills. She said these deputies are on salaries of above €80,000 and therefore are in a comfortable position to pay.

But there were heated scenes during 'Leaders' Questions' after Ms Burton suggested that Ms McDonald is a "coward" over her stance on some of the controversies that have engulfed Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams.

"Have you ever had a conversation with your party leader in relation to various issues in relation to him or are you a coward?"

Ms Burton accused Ms McDonald of trying to turn 'Leaders' Questions' into a "kangaroo court", in a clear reference to the alleged cover-up of sex abuse by the IRA.

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