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Facebook pictures of food parcels fuel Taoiseach's anger at Sinn Féin

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Clash: Leo Varadkar disagreed with Mary Lou McDonald. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Clash: Leo Varadkar disagreed with Mary Lou McDonald. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Clash: Leo Varadkar disagreed with Mary Lou McDonald. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Fine Gael and Sinn Féin have become embroiled in a row over their ministers delivering food packages to vulnerable and old people.

In the Dáil, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar criticised Sinn Féin for delivering food parcels and posting pictures on Facebook during a debate on the Covid-19 unemployment payment.

Mr Varadkar said he would be "ashamed" to "boast" about giving out food parcels. He said the Government provided funding for food banks.

"What we do not do is post on Facebook pictures of our ministers visiting them and handing out food to the poor," he added.

However, in response, Sinn Féin highlighted pictures on Twitter showing Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy delivering meals on wheels to his constituents yesterday. Mr Murphy retweeted the images with his own account.

Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane said it showed how "vacuous" the Taoiseach's attack was, adding: "There are many people from across the island involved in helping out the elderly and vulnerable at this time. Those people should be commended.

"Instead, the Taoiseach chose to attack Sinn Féin for the very action his own minister is engaged in."

The Taoiseach's spokesperson said if Sinn Féin "really cared about the less well off and unemployed" it would match the unemployment welfare rates in the North to those paid in the Republic.

In the Dáil, the Taoiseach and Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald clashed over the €350-per-week Covid-19 pandemic unemployment payment.

In response to Ms McDonald's questions, he said it was "not affordable for it to last forever".

He said it would have to be extended beyond mid-June but said decisions on whether it would stay at €350 and for how long had yet to be made.

Mr Varadkar highlighted how payments for the unemployed were far lower in the North where Sinn Féin is in power.

And he said: "Sinn Féin ministers on Facebook site promote the fact that they hand out food parcels to the poor, reminiscent to me of Donald Trump handing out toilet roll after the hurricane hit the islands in the Caribbean."

He added: "I would be ashamed to do something like that." He told Ms McDonald not to blame it on London, adding: "If it was not for their money, it would be even worse."

Ms McDonald said she was "very proud" of the community work of Sinn Féin members.

Irish Independent