The Taoiseach has accused the Sinn Féin leader of exploiting the housing crisis for the party's own political gain.
Micheál Martin told the Dáil the opposition party was opposing shovel-ready housing projects, despite calling for the Government to build more houses.
His comments came after Mary Lou McDonald raised the housing issue once again during Leaders’ Questions.
Ms McDonald accused the Tánaiste of taking a “laissez-faire” approach to solving the housing crisis following Leo Varadkar’s remarks about housing in the Dáil last week.
— Mary Lou McDonald (@MaryLouMcDonald) June 22, 2021
Last Thursday Mr Varadkar said that house prices were lower than they were 14 years ago during the Celtic Tiger.
Ms McDonald said Mr Varadkar’s housing comments were an “indictment of the Government’s failed housing policy”, adding that “heaping even greater debt on workers and families will force prices up”.
She asked the Taoiseach whether he agreed with the Tánaiste.
“Do you stand with your Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, who takes the laissez-faire approach, that people should simply borrow more and buy more expensive housing, or do we accept that we… need to deliver affordable housing?” she asked.
In response, the Taoiseach accused Ms McDonald of “electioneering” in the run-up to the Dublin Bay South by-election and exploiting the housing crisis for political gain with “sound-bites after sound-bite and slogan after slogan”.
He added he was “very conscious” of the housing issue.
“Housing is a crisis,” Mr Martin said. “This government is just about 12 months in office, dealing with a global pandemic.
“A pandemic which unfortunately has impacted on house building in 2020 by about 5,000 houses that we could have got built. If there wasn’t a lockdown from 2020, and the lockdown of 2021 has impacted on us as well.”
Mr Martin said €3.3 billion has been allocated to housing this year and that last year the Government had enhanced the help to buy scheme, which had helped 22,000 buyers get on the property ladder.
You seem to want to exploit it to win votes but you come up with very little solutions to it
The Taoiseach said “22,000 people have benefited from that scheme, yet you opposed that scheme,” and added: “You come in here then and lecture everybody else about affordability, and trying to make housing affordable.
“You cannot have it both ways. You seem to want to exploit it to win votes but you come up with very little solutions to it, and you will oppose every single measure that government introduces to try and make housing affordable.”
He said Ms McDonald’s party had been opposing many shovel-ready housing projects. “Hundreds and hundreds and thousands and thousands of houses have been rejected by your party, and you’ve opposed them, and which in my view is completely inconsistent with the stance that you take here in the house.”
Ms McDonald said “attacking” Sinn Féin for a housing crisis that Fianna Fáil created demonstrated “just how threadbare” the Taoiseach’s approach to the issue is.