Saturday 18 August 2018

Lord Mayor locks horns with his FG colleague in angry clash over beggars

NO DATE has been set, but already the heavy blows are being struck in the election campaign.

Embarrassingly for Fine Gael this feud is between two members of its party, fighting over the growing problem of Dublin street beggars, as well the Dublin Northwest seat.

Dr Bill Tormey has lashed out at the Lord Mayor and his fellow Fine Gael candidate Gerry Breen who, he says, "keeps coming out with appalling, reactionary, anti-social comments about begging".

Although both men told the Herald that they will work together to secure a seat for the party, it is clear that they will not be giving each other an inch in the battle for that seat.

Opposes

Dr Tormey, who is the FG group leader on Dublin City Council, first made the remarks in an online blog posted on Christmas Day, but today repeated them to the Herald.

He opposes Mr Breen's stance on city beggars and finds his colleagues attitude "singularly offensive and anti-social".

"His stance is causing huge trouble among Fine Gael councillors, half of whom think it's appalling," Dr Tormey said.

However, Clontarf-based Mr Breen said he whole-heartedly stands over his belief that tough regulation is needed to rid the streets of begging.

"As Lord Mayor of Dublin, and someone who is concerned with employment in our city and the health and prosperity, my opinion on the begging issue is that it is organised, it is systemic. It's largely foreign based and it's unacceptable," he said.

"I was talking to one cafe owner yesterday who said there are four of them dropped off in the morning at about 8.30 and then they're picked up again at lunchtime and there are different ones put in place.

"It doesn't take a genius to understand that it's organised. It's not needs-based, it's opportunities-driven."

Dr Tormey has adopted a totally opposite view, saying that Breen spreads a "tidal wave of ignorant rhetoric".

"He's cheering on people who are going to jail beggars. Where? Spike Island? Passing comments about people within a 100 yards of the Mansion House is a joke."

The Beaumont consultant said he was aware that the comments would prove controversial but said that he has no intention of staying quiet because his views might upset people.

"Politics is very annoying if you sit in my position because I actually stand for something. If you stand for something and it's not average you're always in trouble.

Amazed

"I stand outside the mainstream and I get called out sorts of bloody names."

But he denied a significantly rift with his running mate, saying that had he proposed him for Lord Mayor last year and looked for him to be the second candidate in the constituency.

And even though he "would be amazed if 10pc of Dublin City councillors supported his attitude" Dr Tormey adds: "I like Gerry."

Similarly the Lord Mayor said: "I'll work with Bill to make sure we get a seat in northwest and he is entitled to a difference of opinion."

kdoyle@herald.ie

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