Dáil row over who is closer to Sinn Féin

Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have become embroiled in an argument over which party is closer to Sinn Féin.

The Dáil descended into a bickering contest when Tánaiste minister Simon Coveney and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin argued over who is electorally closer to Sinn Féin.

Mr Martin claimed Mr Coveney, the foreign affairs minister, had “forgot to mention the strong electoral alliance between his party and Sinn Féin”.

Referencing how Sinn Féin had voted for Anthony Lawlor, Fine Gael’s candidate in the recent Seanad by-elections, Mr Martin said it was “very noticeable and the most striking electoral alliance so far in the House this year”.

Mr Coveney suggested that “maybe it is the heat getting to” the Fianna Fáil leader, who shares the same constituency of Cork South-Central.

“The reality is that Fianna Fáil have voted with Sinn Féin a lot more regularly in this House than Fine Gael has,” said Mr Coveney.

Sinn Féin president Mary-Lou McDonald seemed to welcome the attention directed at her party, stating:

They say that the only thing worse than people talking about you is people not talking about you, I take that view on it.

However, turning the focus back on the two main parties, she claimed Fianna Fáil is seeking “to mask its support for a Fine Gael-led Government and Fine Gael policies and budgets by picking sham fights”.

“It keeps the Government in power while faking outrage over the results of the disastrous policies it helped to implement.

“It is incredible that the leaders of the government arrangement choose to focus their energies on these tiffs rather than the serious issues that need to be addressed.”

Raising the “ongoing scandal” of children waiting for scoliosis surgery, Ms McDonald said the four-month target has been missed for 88 children, some of whom have been waiting more than three years.

“Those children live in agony and are unable to live a full life. Their parents are frustrated and exhausted from battling the system. 

"They are worn out fighting for access for their children to vital medical treatment and life-changing surgery, which is a battle they should not have to fight.”

Mr Coveney said the Government have prioritised this area for rapid progress. 

Over 420 children have been treated this year compared to just over 200 two years ago, so we have more than doubled the delivery in terms of operations.

Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall demanded that Health Minister Simon Harris deal with the crisis in older person’s services as the annual funding allocation for home-help hours has already run out and more than 6,000 people are on waiting lists for home-support services nationally.

“It is absolutely shocking that just over halfway through the year that funding for such a basic service could effectively run out when so many people are waiting for services.

In failing to properly fund these services, the Government is essentially telling older people that they simply do not care about their needs,” said Ms Shortall.


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