Taoiseach Micheál Martin has sparked a class war with Sinn Féin as he launched strong criticisms of the party’s TDs from privileged backgrounds.
Mr Martin specifically targeted Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald and the party’s housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin, who were both privately educated and were raised in upper middle-class communities in south Dublin.
During a fiery Dáil debate, the Taoiseach suggested he had a far more difficult upbringing than Ms McDonald after she said he did not understand the realities of the housing crisis.
“I just want to say that my background, where I grew up and what we had to put up with, was far different to yours,” he said.
“Do not dare to lecture me. I understand the realities of life as well as anybody else in this House.
“I know a thing or two about people being in difficulty and facing challenges in their early lives with regard to the cost of living and their backgrounds.”
Writing on Twitter, Ms McDonald hit back at the Taoiseach, saying his “personalised comments” were an “empty and unedifying attempt to dodge legitimate questions”.
“Understanding the realities of life (& the housing crisis) means recognising, accepting & responding to other people’s lives. Not your own. BTW Micheál Martin doesn’t know me from Adam,” she wrote online.
At the launch of a progress report on the Government’s Housing for All plan later in the day, the Taoiseach doubled down on his comments and focused his criticism on Mr Ó Broin.
“To be honest with you, when I look across at the likes of Deputy Ó Broin and others, it’s a bit rich for them to be lecturing the likes of me in terms of my background or presenting in that position. It’s a fraudulent political narrative that needs to be called out,” he said.
“Stop lecturing people as if somehow you’re the working-class hero on the other side and everybody else on the Government side are unfeeling, have no connection to reality or have no commitment to housing provision.”
Speaking to journalists after Mr Martin’s remarks, Mr Ó Broin said the Taoiseach is out of touch.
“Micheál Martin is more out of touch than probably any other Taoiseach in recent times,” he said.
“I think he is taking the public for fools. People’s assessment of the housing crisis is not based on what I say, it’s based on the rents they pay, whether or not they can afford a home.”
Mr Ó Broin went to the exclusive Blackrock College in south Co Dublin, while Ms McDonald attended Notre Dame des Missions in Churchtown in the capital. Mr Martin attended Coláiste Chríost Rí in Turners Cross, Cork city.
Last night, a senior Fianna Fáil source said Sinn Féin is “able to throw it but not able to take it”.
“Sinn Féin’s obsession with sloganeering and propagandising has to be questioned.”
In the Dáil, Ms McDonald accused the Taoiseach of “scratching his head” over the housing crisis.
“I’ve told you two things that will put money back into renters’ pockets. One is a tax rebate, do that, and a freeze for three years on rent. Do that and Generation Rent might believe that you finally get it,” she said.