The Taoiseach has attacked Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald, comparing her to Brexiteers and claiming she “doesn’t believe her own rubbish” on climate change. Leo Varadkar told the Dáil that carbon taxes will be necessary to tackle climate change and went on to target Ms McDonald, stating she was “not being honest” and “is not really on the side of the environment”.
Under questioning from the Sinn Féin president on the carbon tax, Mr Varadkar said: “I have no doubt Sinn Féin will do what it always does, which is the populist thing to peddle solutions that don’t add up.”
Ms McDonald described climate change as the “defining challenge of our generation” and said we are already “way, way behind” where we need to be in tackling this issue. However, she said the way to address climate change is not through increasing the cost of living for low- and middle-income workers. She said a carbon tax would be a punitive measure, which must be opposed.
Responding, Mr Varadkar said Sinn Féin “never let the facts get in the way of a good political charge”.
“The deputy sounds to me like one of the hard Brexiteers across the water, we know what she is against but we don’t know what she is for. If you think we are going to respond to those young people who want us to get our act together on climate change by only doing things that are popular, by only doing investments, by only handing out grants, I don’t think you believe your own rubbish."
Mr Varadkar said the whole point of a carbon tax is to encourage people and large corporations to change their behaviour. The Oireachtas Committee on Climate Change is due to begin considering its report today. Committee membershope the report, which sets out key recommendations on climate action, will be published tomorrow.
Fine Gael had tried to reduce the emissions targets outlined in the cross-party report, but the amendment was withdrawn when the committee met in private last night. However, the committee will still have to meet today to agree a compromise motion around how people will be protected from fuel poverty in any imposition of a carbon tax. The committee meeting ended last night without a united agreement on this.