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Dail homeless spat is 'demeaning' - White


Alex White

Alex White

Eric Byrne

Eric Byrne


Alex White

Communications Minister Alex White has said the Dail spat over a TD's homeless brother was regrettable.

Mr White stopped short of calling on his Labour Party colleague Eric Byrne to apologise over personal comments to Sinn Fein TD Jonathan O'Brien.

Mr O'Brien's party colleague Mary Lou McDonald said the remarks were "nasty".

During heated exchanges around the subject of homelessness, Mr O'Brien - who is a TD for Cork North-Central - told the Dail that his brother is a homeless heroin addict who cannot get accommodation.

Mr Byrne, who represents Dublin South-Central, asked: "Why doesn't his good family give him a home," causing Mr O'Brien to say "shut your mouth".

"I think that kind of exchange in the Dail is not very productive and is a bit demeaning," Mr White said yesterday. "But on that particular exchange, it would be hard to imagine either Jonathan O'Brien or Eric Byrne wouldn't feel it was regrettable.

"The personal issue was brought in by Deputy O'Brien, and that was a judgement for him. Then Eric Byrne came in and he was told to shut his mouth. Who is achieving anything from this sort of exchange?" Mr White asked.

"I think it is regrettable and I haven't spoken to either them but I hope they both feel that."

But when pressed, Mr White stopped short of calling on his party colleague to say sorry.

"It is not for me to call for an apology," he said.

Sinn Fein's Deputy Mary Lou McDonald said the remarks by Mr Byrne were "nasty".

"It was pure and utter nastiness. If I were Eric, and I am not sure if he is prepared to do it publicly, I would apologise to Jonathan," she said.


Mr O'Brien has said he is not seeking a personal apology from Mr Byrne.

Mr O'Brien said his brother "can't get rent accommodation because of the rent allowance" and "has been forced to go back into a hostel where drug-taking happens in front of him".

Mr O'Brien said that Mr Byrne should apologise to his own constituents in Dublin for showing a lack of understanding on the issue.

Mr Byrne has so far refused to apologise for his remarks.