Sinn Féin's Pádraig Mac Lochlainn made controversial comments on radio
SINN Féin TD Pádraig Mac Lochlainn has been criticised after claiming the Government was not prepared to spend money on its own people but was “boasting” about helping refugees.
Mary Lou McDonald has been forced to defend her party whip after the comments on Highland Radio on Thursday morning were sharply criticised by Social Democrats’ TD Gary Gannon, who said they were evidence “scapegoating and othering” of refugees arriving from Ukraine.
Speaking in relation to the Mica redress scheme on his local radio station, Mr MacLochlainn said the Government was not prepared to spend money “on its own people” yet it was “boasting” about what it was spending on refugees.
“The Government were complaining about having to spend billions to help their own people in utter distress whose lives have collapsed, buildings collapsing around them in Donegal and the west and the same Government were almost boasting to the world about spending billions and rightly,” he told The Nine Til Noon show with Greg Hughes.
“That’s our place in the world, we help out refugees, every country does that around the world. But they were complaining doing the same for their own people and I think that’s stayed in a lot of minds and hearts and it goes to the core of what’s wrong with the approach of this government.
“That their own people are in distress and they don’t have the same urgency and passion for them.”
Mr Gannon said that “sowing division to highlight government failure is spectacularly unhelpful as well as utterly unacceptable” and called on Mr Mac Lochlainn to clarify or retract his comments.
“Scapegoating and othering those seeking refuge here is not reflective of that call. We’ve seen that before and know too well how it ends,” the Social Democrats TD said.
Speaking in Ringsend on Thursday morning, McDonald said that the last thing either Mr MacLochlainn or Sinn Féin would do is “sow division in respect of people seeking international protection and refuge here”.
“We're very clear, all of society is very clear that we need to care for and support all of those who are fleeing a terrible criminal bombardment by Putin and let me also say, that government has to respond to everybody's needs in a way that is seen to be fair, and even a handed,” she said.
“And let us just record the lack of urgency, the clear lack of urgency on the part of this Government to address the housing and the shelter needs of people here for a very, very long time and in no way do we choose to attend to one or the other of those realities, you attend to both.”
She said this was “certainly” Mr Mac Lochlainn’s position, and added: “Pádraig has a very strong reputation and stance on social inclusion and he know more than any of the rest of us would allow anybody to imagine that the failures of government and housing policy are the fault of anybody other than the government themselves. That's where culpability and responsibility rests.”
Mr MacLochlainn did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Mr Gannon’s call for him to clarify or retract his remarks.