Tuesday 18 December 2018

Sinn Fein accusations of favouring the wealthy ‘rank hypocrisy’, says Varadkar

The Taoiseach said Mary Lou McDonald had chosen to ‘hob-nob with the super-rich in America at a 400 dollar-a-plate lunch’.

Leo Varadkar (Tom Honan/PA)
Leo Varadkar (Tom Honan/PA)

By Michelle Devane, Press Association  

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has accused Sinn Fein of “rank hypocrisy” over accusations that the Government favoured the wealthy when the party’s own leader was “hob-nobbing” in the US with the “super-rich”.

Mr Varadkar claimed Mary Lou McDonald had chosen to “hob-nob with the super-rich in America at a 400 dollar-a-plate lunch (rather) than respect the war dead or respect our president”.

He told the Dail on Tuesday that on Armistice Day on November 11, when party leaders had paid respect to people who gave their lives in the First World War, Ms McDonald had been in New York at a fundraising lunch.

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Mary Lou McDonald (Brian Lawless/PA)

“Do you not see any hypocrisy in that?” Mr Varadkar asked.

“You coming in here, day after day, accusing us of having some sort of special relationship with the super-rich, accusing us of having the wrong priorities,” he said.

“On the day of the Armistice, a particularly important day for Protestant and unionist people in this country, on the day we inaugurate our president, on the day we show respect for our constitution, you were in New York clinking champagne, and eating a 400 (dollar) a plate lunch with the super-rich.

“This rank hypocrisy from Sinn Fein, we hear it far too often.”

Ms McDonald said she had attended a remembrance service at Sligo Grammar on November 14 and paid her respects, and that she had been the only leader to do so on that occasion.

Mr Varadkar was responding to accusations by Ms McDonald that the Government was targeting lower-paid workers by introducing policies that were “completely disconnected from reality”.

During Leaders’ Questions, Ms McDonald raised the planned changes to flat-rate expenses which could see about 80,000 low-paid workers lose tax reliefs.

“The high cost of living weighing down on ordinary workers cannot be tackled if the taxman snipes away at the very modest and necessary expenses that they can claim,” she said.

Ms McDonald added that the expenses covered the cost of equipment, like uniforms, tools and stationery which she described as “legitimate”.

She contrasted the changes with the Government’s treatment of the super-rich, citing the example of high net worth individuals who were able to claim significant tax credits.

“The very rich can avail of 93 million euro worth of tax reliefs and yet you want to scrap the very small tax relief of a couple of euros a week for ordinary working people,” she said.

“This is unbelievable.”

The Taoiseach said the Revenue Commissioners conduct an ongoing review of flat-rate expenses to ensure that the sums granted were “still justified” and that they were appropriate to modern employment.

Following the latest review Mr Varadkar said the Revenue had recommended tax changes but they would not take effect until January 1 2020.

Rail and bus employees, teachers, hotel and bar staff and construction workers may see their tax relief on expenses axed.

Shop assistants, actors and journalists are among those affected.

The flat-rate scheme aims to cover the cost of workers who have to pay for uniforms and tools.

Press Association

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