The Taoiseach has told the Sinn Féin leader "not to lecture him" on the struggles of working people.
In an ill-tempered clash in the Dáil, Micheál Martin told Mary Lou McDonald that he had a tougher upbringing than her.
Ms McDonald had opened her contribution by raising both the housing and cost of living crises. She showed the Dáil chamber pictures of homes offered for rent including one which she called "a converted hallway".
“This is a converted hallway. This would knock you back €910 per month - probably a snitch in your mind.”
In another picture she identified as being from Cork, Ms McDonald said "you could touch your fridge if you stretched your feet out of your bed”.
Micheál Martin doesn't get it! Rip-off rents continue to soar while the Government casts renters aside. Sinn Féin has a plan to give renters a break by reducing rents & banning rent increases for 3 years. @MaryLouMcDonald#Time4Change pic.twitter.com/Zk5rzYW706— Sinn Féin (@sinnfeinireland) January 26, 2022
“That's the reality for Generation Rent. Don't you dare talk to me about false narratives or claim that you understand the crisis," she said, adding that the Taoiseach was "scratching his head" about the difficulties in finding or affording housing for many younger people.
"Generation rent, as it is called, is the generation cast aside by bad Government policies that continue to favour big landlords and institutional investors over the interests of those in housing need. The Taoiseach's approach is failing.
"His rent caps do not work for rent pressure zones and in counties where they do not apply, renters are left struggling with astronomical rises."
Ms McDonald said that the Government had failed on affordability and only a rent freeze or a rebate for taxpayers would "convince Generation Rent" that the Government was "serious about solving the issue".
In response, Mr Martin said that Sinn Féin had "consistently defeated" wide-scale delivery of projects like the O'Devaney Gardens redevelopment and said that the only way to solve the housing crisis was to deliver new homes. He said that Sinn Féin's proposals on housing lacked "depth and substance".
Rounding on Ms McDonald, the Taoiseach said that he had had a tougher background than she did growing up in Turner's Cross.
"The Deputy says that I will finally get it. She sets out a narrative that I am divorced from reality. What I had to put up with coming from my background and where I grew up was far different from what she had to put up with.
“Don’t you dare lecture me. I understand realities of life as well as anybody else in this House," he said, adding that he didn't "pretend" to know about the difficulties of working people.
“But I know a thing or two about people being in difficulty and it being challenging in their early lives in terms of cost of living and so on in terms of backgrounds.”
The Taoiseach said that the housing crisis was "too big for politics".