Friday 19 January 2018

Minister Alan Kelly and Sinn Fein’s Mary Lou McDonald trade blows in deputy leaders debate

Sinn Fein deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald. Photo: Tom Burke
Sinn Fein deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald. Photo: Tom Burke
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

Environment Minister Alan Kelly and Sinn Fein’s Mary Lou McDonald traded blows over housing, health and tax on TV3’s deputy leaders debate last night.

The two deputy party leaders, who are fighting for the votes of low income earners, clashed and spoke over one another during the live TV debate.

Children’s Minister James Reilly and Mr Kelly defended their record in the Coalition against Ms McDonald and Fianna Fail’s Barry Cowen.

Ms McDonald attacked Mr Kelly over his handling of the housing and homelessness crisis.

She said Mr Kelly and the Labour Party has “zero credibility” among people who are looking for housing.

Ms McDonald also said Mr Kelly “excels” at recycling announcements on social housing and accused him of “windy rhetoric”.

She said just 28 social housing units were constructed last year.

Mr Kelly said the housing crisis developed due to a “perfect storm” and insisted the government had a plan to invest €4bn in social housing construction.

The minister said a lack of housing supply was the main issue and that after every recession it takes at least three years for the construction sector catch up with the rest of the economy.

Mr Kelly said 5,000 social houses are currently being built and said last year he handed over 13,000 keys to people looking for homes from the State.

Mr Reilly, the deputy leader of Fine Gael, defended his time as Health Minister and said he reduced trolley number by a third when he was in the department.

He also pushed the Fine Gael message that investment in health care cannot be introduced without a strong economy.

Ms McDonald said Sinn Fein will not show “faux outrage” or “tea and sympathy” every time an elderly person is on a hospital.

She said Fine Gael has “given up the ghost” on universal health care and insisted Sinn Féin will introduce.

Ms McDonald said anyone who says you do not have to invest billions of euros to improve the health care system is “telling porky pies”.

Mr Kelly said he agreed with Ms McDonald that the health care system needs investment but insisted it has to be done gradually.

He praised Mr Reilly who he said had very little funding to put into the health care system when he was minister.

Barry Cowen, who was representing Fianna Fáil, dismissed criticism of his party’s health system of the economy and insisted people did not want to talk “something that happened 14 years ago”.

Mr Reilly said tax is very high in this country and Fine Gael want to reduce it for all workers. He said Irish doctors are paid more than those in the UK but after tax the take home less pay.

Ms McDonald said Fine Gael’s tax policy will “disproportionately benefit” those who are better paid and give “tax bonanza” to the rich.

Mr Kelly dismissed Ms McDonald and Mr Cowen's stance on abolishing water charges as" populist nonsense".

Mr Cowen, who did not in engage in the shouting matches, complained he was not given an opportunity to set out his points to the public.

Ms McDonald ended the debate by saying it was “tweedle dee and Tweedle dum” presented by TV3, in reference to Mr Cowen and Mr Kelly.

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