Thursday 26 April 2018

Taoiseach compares Mary Lou McDonald with far-right leader Marine Le Pen

Mr Varadkar also said Sinn Féin is the only party in Leinster House “that has never done anything for children”

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: Reuters
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: Reuters
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has launched a stinging attack on Sinn Féin’s deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald, comparing her to French far-right politician Marine Le Pen.

In an extraordinary Dáil exchange Mr Varadkar said Sinn Féin is the only party in Leinster House “that has never done anything for children”.

And he claimed the party has lost interest in being in government in Northern Ireland.

The Taoiseach was responding to questions from Ms McDonald on the issue of childcare.

She called on the Government to stop creating a “sham fight” with Fianna Fáil over tax cuts and instead increase the childcare subsidy five-fold in the Budget.

The Dublin Central TD, sitting in for Gerry Adams, said Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil were preparing to “hammer out a budget that will disproportionately help the better off in society”.

“Many parents are paying what amounts to a second mortgage to make sure their children are looked after,” she said.

In reply, Mr Varadkar said the “first priority” in next month’s budget will be to balance the books for the first time in 10 years.

After that money will be put towards infrastructure and “after that yes we will find some space to improve the take home pay and living standards of people”.

The Taoiseach said his administration and previous governments including Fianna Fáil, the Labour Party, Green Party and Independents had brought child benefit to one of the highest levels in Europe.

He said Fine Gael and Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone had introduced the Affordable Childcare Scheme earlier this month and all under-sixes now have free GP care.

“Tell me what your party has ever actually done for families,” he said across the Dáil chamber, adding that Sinn Féin claim to put families first is “totally bogus”.

Ms McDonald pointed out that she is raising two young children and therefore understands the plight of families.

“All of the empty rhetoric about balancing the books is not work a fig to working families,” she said.

The Sinn Féin TD warned the Taoiseach “don’t dream of attacking us” on the issue of children, adding that he has “considerable neck”.

However,  Mr Varadkar swiped back that “even though their politics is totally different” Ms McDonald reminds him of Marine Le Pen because “she always goes back to her script”.

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