By Dominic McGrath, PA
There were ugly scenes in the Dáil on Wednesday as a row about housing descended into accusations of corruption between the Taoiseach and the Sinn Féin leader.
During leaders’ questions, Taoiseach Micheál Martin offered an angry riposte after Mary Lou McDonald claimed his party had a historic “corrupt” relationship with the private construction industry.
Mr Martin said: “You are the last party to talk to anybody about corruption. Because your party corrupted public life in this country for well on 40 years to a far greater degree than any other party in this country.
“You corrupted the moral code of our country and our society, for the murder and mayhem that you perpetrated and that you still endorse deputy, that you still endorse.
“You still support the narrative of murder and mayhem, and 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 everybody else or telling this party that we were corrupt. We had faults and flaws, no doubt about it. But we faced up to it.
“You consistently try and rewrite the narrative and bury the truth of the level of corruption your party engages in.”
Mrs McDonald hit back during his comments, calling them “pathetic” and shouting “Ansbacher”, a reference to the financial scandal that overshadowed Irish politics at the turn of the century.
The barbed attacks came as the Sinn Féin leader once again took aim at the housing policies of the coalition Government, headed by the Fianna Fáil leader.
“If ever there was a salutary tale and lesson of 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, look no further,” she said.
The O’Devaney Gardens development, on the north side of Dublin city, has been a source of political controversy for years and has been mired in delays.
The deal struck between Bartra and Dublin City Council for more than 1,000 homes has repeatedly been a flashpoint in local and national politics, with critics arguing that private developers are failing to provide affordable homes in the midst of a housing crisis.
Mrs McDonald said: “The fiasco at O’Devaney Gardens is a mess of the Government’s own making. Government was warned at the time and again that this was a terrible deal for tenants, for homeowners and for the taxpayer.
“You were warned that sidelining the local authority and gifting public lands to private developers was a really bad idea. Do you now accept those facts, Taoiseach?”
Mr Martin has repeatedly been forced to defend his Government’s flagship Housing for All policy in the Dáil in recent weeks.
He said that on housing, it is the “Sinn Féin way or the high way”.
Mr Martin said the Government approach is “ambitious, and has a very strong delivery mechanism there to get houses built”.