Saturday 17 March 2018

Gerry Adams accused of an 'extraordinary lack of knowledge and understanding' after claiming wine costs €30

Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty Photo: Tom Burke
Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty Photo: Tom Burke
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Fianna Fáil has accused Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty of undermining the stability of the Government and called on her to apologise for saying the party are not trustworthy.

A furious row has broken out between Ms Doherty and the party which props up the minority government.

It comes as Fianna Fáil has also launched a blistering on Sinn Féin, accusing Gerry Adams’s party of presiding over “starvation rates of social welfare” in Northern Ireland.

The dispute centres on changes made to how the State Contributory Pensions are calculated in 2012, which have resulted in 35,000 people, many women, receiving reduced payments

The Government is expected to lose a Dáil vote on the issue tonight - but the nature of new politics means they will not be bound by the Fianna Fáil motion calling for the pension anomalies to be corrected.

To reverse the 2012 changes for next year would cost in the region of €70m.

Ms Doherty is expected to place a counter-motion which will suggest dealing with the problem via broader, longer-term pension reforms.

She has questioned why Fianna Fáil didn’t raise the issue during its negotiations with Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe in the run up to last week’s Budget.

And she said Fianna Fáil could not be trusted on the economy or this issue.

At Leinster House, Fianna Fáil’s social protection spokesman Willie O’Dea hit back: “I want to state categorically and repeat that our spokesperson on public expenditure Dara Calleary did specifically raise that issue with the Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe. “

He said Fianna Fail had secured a social welfare package worth €343m in the Budget but had wanted the Government to set out a vision on the pension issue.

“We have been doing area upmost to sustain a stable government in the national interest,” he said.

“The remark the Social Protection Minister made this morning about Fianna Fáil not being trustworthy, that wasn’t helpful. That doesn’t help government cohesion.

“I’m asking her in a reasonable manner to correct the record. She was happy enough to trust us to vote her in as a minister and pass the various pieces legislation she has put before the House.”

Mr O’Dea suggested that Ms O’Doherty make an apology during the debate on pensions in the Dáil tonight.

Fianna Fáil TD Mary Butler took “umbrage” at the minister’s comments, saying “She might be better served if she went back and read the Confidence and Supply Agreement because only we are here facilitating the Government Minister Doherty wouldn’t be a minister today.”

And Kildare TD Fiona O’Loughlin said: “She has undermined the Confidence and Supply Agreement.”

Fianna Fáil has faced criticism from Sinn Féin for not doing more to force the Government’s hand on the issue, but Mr O’Dea  said: “If you look at SF record on social welfare in Northern Ireland, it’s abysmal.

“They are presided, as members of the Executive, over starvation rates of social welfare. They have no moral authority at all to come down here and start preaching about social welfare.

“We’ve been banging on about this since literally almost the date it was introduced.”

In the Dáil Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said older people are losing out on €30 every week.

He described the Budget as “bonkers and unbelievable” – but then caused momentary consternation by suggesting members of the Cabinet spend €30 on bottles of wine.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar replied by claiming Mr Adams’s doesn’t understand the policy issues the Government is grappling with.

He said the Sinn Féin leader showed an “extraordinary lack of knowledge and understanding”.

Mr Varadkar also took a swipe at Mr Adams for using first class flights in the past “when he can get somebody to pay for them”, adding: “IT’s some bottle of wine that costs €30.”

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