A housing debate in the Dáil has descended into fiery argument with the Taoiseach and Sinn Féin leader accusing each other of corruption.
As Leader’s Questions got underway Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald asked the Taoiseach about reports that the developer of O’Devaney Gardens in Dublin is threatening to sell 500 homes to a cuckoo fund.
Under a deal with the developer Bartra, 275 homes built on the site would be set aside for social housing, 248 would be sold as affordable housing at below-market rate and the remaining 524 would be sold by Bartra.
The Irish Sun reports that Bartra has now written to the government warning that if the State does not buy all 524, it will sell them to a “private institutional investor”.
It also warns that it can’t start building the social or affordable units until it has a deal in place to sell the others.
Speaking in the Dáil, Deputy McDonald said Bartra was ‘effectively trying to blackmail the taxpayer’ and said the situation proved it was a “really bad idea” to gift public lands to private developers.
In response, the Taoiseach said O’Devaney Gardens would have been built a long time ago, “if it wasn’t for people playing politics with it” and accused Sinn Féin of taking a ‘my way or the highway’ approach to housing.
It's absolutely pathetic. Every week. https://t.co/vAsQiTAnuw
— Seán Defoe (@SeanDefoe) February 23, 2022
Deputy McDonald then accused Fianna Fáil of corruption – insisting the party has always been in bed with developers.
“If ever there was a salutary tale and lesson about Fianna Fáil in government - Fianna Fáil the party of the Galway tent and brown envelopes and a cosy relationship with developers - it is O’Devaney Gardens,” she said. “Look no further.”
“I could go on and on, I don’t have scope to recount the corrupted nature of your relationship with the people I refer to and your plan fails again because you are so myopic and limited in your view.
“I have put it to you that the funds that you now mollycoddle and afford sweetheart deals to are now coming back to bite you.
“Bartra has said, unless the State steps in and buys back homes at inflated prices, they are going to offload them to cuckoo funds who in turn will let out these homes and skin people for extortionate rents.
“I would like to know Taoiseach what you propose to do, as head of Government, about that.”
"You mentioned corruption there. You are the last party to talk to anyone about corruption…"
"…women who were raped by IRA volunteers, and your party covered it up…"
"…You are pathetic…"
Standard fare from today's Leaders' Questions.
— Gavan Reilly (@gavreilly) February 23, 2022
In response, the Taoiseach accused Sinn Féin of corruption – with Deputy McDonald shouting “Ansbacher”, “Galway” and “Pathetic” while he spoke.
“You are the last party to talk to anybody about corruption because your party corrupted public life in this Republic for well-on 40 years,” said Mr Martin. “To a far greater degree than any other party in this country.
“You corrupted the moral code of our country and our society by the murder and mayhem that you perpetrated and that you still endorse. You still endorse it. You still support the narrative of murder and mayhem and so-forth.
“You also support the undermining of women who were raped by IRA volunteers and your party covered it up.
“So do not come into this house and lead with your chin telling this party we were corrupt. We had faults and flaws no doubt about it, but we faced up to it.
“We never ever attempt - as you do consistently - to try and re-write the narrative and bury the truths about the level of corruption that your party engaged in down through the years.”