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Leo clashes with SF over 'boasts' on food parcels

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Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy delivering Covid-19 meals

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy delivering Covid-19 meals

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy delivering Covid-19 meals

Fine Gael and Sinn Fein have become embroiled in a row over their ministers delivering food packages to vulnerable and old people.

During a debate in the Dail on the Covid-19 unemployment payment, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar criticised Sinn Fein for delivering food parcels and posting pictures on Facebook.

Mr Varadkar said he would be "ashamed" to "boast" about giving out food parcels.

He said the Government provides funding for food banks. "What we do not do is post on Facebook pictures of our ministers visiting them and handing out food to the poor," he added.

Vacuous

In response, Sinn Fein highlighted pictures on Twitter showing Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy delivering meals on wheels to his constituents yesterday afternoon. Mr Murphy retweeted the images to his own Twitter account.

Sinn Fein TD David Cullinane said the tweet of Mr Murphy showed how "vacuous" the Taoiseach's attack was.

"There are many people from across the island involved in helping out the elderly and vulnerable at this time. Those people should be commended," he said.

"Instead, the Taoiseach chose to attack Sinn Fein for the very action his own minister is engaged in."

The Taoiseach's spokesperson said that if Sinn Fein "really cared about the less well off and unemployed" it would match the unemployment welfare rates in the North to those paid in the South.

In the Dail, the Taoiseach and Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald clashed over the €350-per-week Covid-19 pandemic unemployment payment.

In response to Ms McDonald's questions, Mr Varadkar said it is "not affordable for it to last forever".

He said it will have to be extended beyond mid-June but added that decisions on whether it will stay at €350 and for how long have yet to be made.

Mr Varadkar said payments for the unemployed are far lower in the North where Sinn Fein is in power.

He suggested the rates were so low in the North that Sinn Fein ministers were forced to deliver food parcels.

"Sinn Fein ministers on their Facebook site promote the fact that they hand out food parcels to the poor, reminiscent to me of Donald Trump handing out toilet roll after the hurricane hit the islands in the Caribbean," he said.

"I would be ashamed to do something like that."

He told Ms McDonald not to blame it on London, adding: "If it was not for their money, it would be even worse."

Ms McDonald said she was "very proud" of the community work her members do.

"It is not just in the North that people are running meals on wheels and bringing packages and parcels to help people who are struggling," she said.