Personal and bitter exchanges between FG and SF
Sinn Féin deputy leader Pearse Doherty has said his conviction for a “very minor breach of the peace” has been dealt with and called on Tánaiste Leo Varadkar to focus on supporting people who cannot heat their homes.
Mr Doherty issued a statement addressing his Dáil clash with Mr Varadkar during a debate on the cost of living saying: "Almost three decades ago I was involved in a very minor breach of the peace in Dublin city centre.
“It was dealt with under the Probation Act. It has been covered in the media on numerous occasions.”
He added: "The fact that the Tánaiste has to grasp for this to cover his decade-long failure in government is very telling. He would be better off doing his job and supporting people who can’t heat their home or put diesel in their car to get to work.”
In earlier scenes in the Dáil, the Tánaiste accused Mr Doherty of having “abused and mistreated” a garda, which led to him being arrested and prosecuted in court.
The accusation came in one of the most personalised and bitter exchanges witnessed in the Dáil chamber for many years.
Mr Doherty, Sinn Féin’s finance spokesperson, had earlier cited corruption allegations against Mr Varadkar which are being considered by the DPP.
Mr Varadkar immediately hit back accusing the Donegal TD of “a very personal cheap shot” which said a lot about his character.
“And it’s particularly strange coming from you because you were prosecuted. You abused and mistreated a Garda Síochána.
"For that you were prosecuted, you were found guilty. You got away without a conviction because of your age at the time,” the Tánaiste said.
“But you were actually prosecuted. You were arrested. That’s what happened to you,” Mr Varadkar continued.
It followed strong exchanges over sprialling fuel costs, as reported by the ESRI today.
The Sinn Féin deputy leader made comments about Mr Varadkar hosting a dinner on Wednesday to celebrate his party’s decade in power.
He accused Fine Gael and the Government of indifference. “Your message amounts to telling people to ‘buckle up – you’re on your own,’” he said.
Mr Varadkar said Mr Doherty’s comments were “a cheap shot.” He rejected allegations of being out of touch – and argued that Sinn Féin leader, Mary Lou McDonald, flew first class to USA for $1,000 a plate fundraisers at this time of economic crisis in Ireland and also planned to go to Australia soon for a similar fundraising occasion.
Replying, Mr Doherty also noted that Mr Varadkar was still being considered by the Director of Public Prosecutions for potential prosecution under the anti-corruption laws. “I really thought you would be a bit more humble in relation to your response,” Mr Doherty said.
Mr Varadkar responded with his accusation of Mr Doherty of having “abused and mistreated” a garda.
Amid some rowdy scenes and heckling, the Tánaiste referred to some controversial episodes in Sinn Féin’s recent past. He noted links to Thomas “Slab” Murphy a convicted tax dodger, described as “a good republican” by Mary Lou McDonald.
“A ‘good republican’ – a tax dodger?” Mr Varadkar asked rhetorically.
He said Sinn Féin members had been convicted for murder. “We know what your party’s attitude is to rape and paedophiles,” Mr Varadkar added.
The Fine Gael leader said Mr Doherty’s “cheap shots” told more about the Sinn Féin TD than they did about himself. “The courts will decide – and they decided on you. You were prosecuted and taken to court,” he concluded amid uproar.
Mr Varadkar also spoke about Sinn Féin's finances – including a donation from a recluse living in a caravan in Britain and the financing of Mr Doherty’s constituency office.
“A party that receives millions in donations from vagabonds that live in a caravan. A party that is one of the biggest landlords in the State. And a person who operates his constituency office using public money from some sort of republican company,” Mr Vardkar said.
The Tánaiste said the Government had already taken many measures to help people and more were planned.
He said more help could happen even before the October budget and budgetary measures could be implemented before the end of this year.