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Fine Gael TD: I did not hear Sinn Fein's Jonathan O'Brien say his brother was homeless

A Fine Gael TD has said that he did not hear Sinn Fein's Jonathan O'Brien tell the Dail that his brother was homeless.

Dublin Mid West TD Derek Keating made the comment following heated discussions yesterday during which he called on the Ceann Comhairle to intervene.

Cork North Central TD Jonathan O’Brien said his brother could not afford to pay for his own accommodation because of rent caps and was forced to stay in hostels where people are openly taking drugs.

Mr O’Brien’s comments were made during angry exchanges as Tánaiste Joan Burton took Leaders Questions.

After Labour TD Eric Byrne responded with “Why does his good family not take him home?”, Mr O'Brien told Mr Byrne: "shut your mouth".

Mr Keating's intervention calling on the Ceann Comhairle to intervene at this point has been criticised today as "showing a complete lack of sensitivity and understanding".

However, the TD told RTE's Liveline show that he "did not hear Mr O'Brien make reference to a homeless person".

"I heard him making some reference to his brother but I didn't hear that," he said.

Presenter Joe Duffy made reference to the fact that Mr Keating didn't hear these details but heard "shut your mouth" clearly enough to make a complaint to the Ceann Comhairle.

"In the course of the debate... if TDs are telling people to 'shut up', it will lessen the Dail," the Fine Gael TD said on the radio show this afternoon. 

In response to Mr Byrne's comment, having heard the full details of what Mr O'Brien said, Mr Keating said "that's not a comment I would have made".

"I would have hesitated before jumping on Jonathan O'Brien," he said. 

Musician Charlie McGettigan also weighed in on the debate, saying that "no two situations of homelessness are the same".

The 64-year-old Eurovision winner's brother Declan drowned in 2007 after many years of living on the streets. 

"Most families do their best, but an awful lot of the time it's down to the homeless person themselves."

Online Editors