Thursday 23 November 2017

SF's McDonald accused of offering 'fairytale' policies

Mary Lou McDonald .Picture: Tom Burke
Mary Lou McDonald .Picture: Tom Burke

Niall O'Connor and Paul Melia

SINN FÉIN deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald has been accused of "fairytale economics" after she floundered in her attempts to detail how her party would fund Irish Water if it abolished domestic charges.

Ms McDonald was unable to fully explain how her party would pay for the essential upgrades to water infrastructure while still maintaining the stance that charges should be scrapped entirely.

And in a deeply worrying admission from Ms McDonald, she suggested Sinn Féin was prepared to turn to commercial rates to make up the €500m shortfall that would arise.

Government TDs have seized on Ms McDonald's alarming admissions, made during an interview on RTE's 'Morning Ireland', as illustrating the flaws in Sinn Féin's policy on water charges.

The introduction of water charges is set to bring in €500m in revenue, required for the Government to pass the crucial market corporation test, which will determine whether Irish Water is a viable entity.

Sinn Féin, however, says Irish Water can remain up and running - but that water charges themselves should be scrapped.

In an uncomfortable interview yesterday, Ms McDonald appeared to become flustered when tackled over the Sinn Féin policy by presenter Gavin Jennings.

Asked repeatedly how Sinn Féin would fund the necessary infrastructure upgrades without charging, the Dublin Central TD replied: "We would be looking at all forms of formula that would achieve that."

She added that "part of the equation" could be making up the shortfall from commercial rates.

"You would tailor the level of investment and works that you could carry out on the basis of that formula ... what I am saying is that under no circumstances will we stand over a situation where you charge people for their domestic water supply, you therefore cut your cloth according to your measure," Ms McDonald said.

Ms McDonald maintained her position that she will refuse to pay the charges when they come into force.

"I know from my own district, my own community, my own constituency that there are many, many people who are angry at the addition of this bill on them but also frightened because they cannot pay it," she said.

"I have taken a decision, though I may be a person in a position to pay this bill, to take a stand in solidarity with those who cannot pay," she added.

Reacting to the comments, politicians from both Fine Gael and Labour said it illustrates the flaws in Sinn Féin's policies.

"I think this just shows that Sinn Féin believes in fairytale economics and is not very good at maths," Fine Gael TD for Limerick Patrick O'Donovan told the Irish Independent.

"Sinn Féin don't live in the real world when it comes to income and expenditure. As more and more people analyse what they stand for, the more and more they are found out," he added.

Labour TD for Galway West Derek Nolan said the comments about commercial rates suggest Sinn Féin intends to "bankrupt" small businesses.

"This proposal will send a shiver of fear through owners of small businesses who have been put to the pin of the collar since the economic crash in 2008, and who are only now beginning to emerge from the worst of the recession," he said.

Responding to the criticism last night, Ms McDonald said she would take "no lectures" from Government politicians.

"Derek Nolan talks about small businesses being pinned to their collar without a hint of irony even though it is the policies of his party and his Fine Gael colleagues that have pinned them to their collar.

"Let me be very clear. Sinn Féin is not proposing an increase in commercial charges.

"We believe that it is possible to find a funding model that would keep Irish Water in public ownership. The Labour Party and Fine Gael should apply themselves to that task."

Irish Independent

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