| 11.1°C Belfast

Hargey blasts Varadkar after row with Sinn Fein over ministers delivering food to vulnerable and poor

Leo Varadkar labelled Sinn Fein 'two faced'

Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey hit out at Taoiseach Leo Vardkar after a row in the Dail over Sinn Fein ministers delivering food packages to vulnerable and old people.

Mr Varadkar rebuked Sinn Fein for delivering food parcels and posting pictures on Facebook during a debate on the Covid-19 unemployment payment on Thursday.

Mr Varadkar said he would be “ashamed to boast” about giving out food parcels. He said his 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.

Ms Hargey, speaking on Radio Ulster's Good Morning Ulster, said that the Taoiseach was "clearly playing politics" and that his comments were "ill-judged".

"I think he is rattled from the last election and the success of the Sinn Fein vote there," the communities minister said.

"I think this is part of his continued pursuit of excluding Sinn Fein from government formation and I think it has to be put into context of government formation talks are going on at the moment.

"What Leo doesn't add, because he shares the same politics as the Tories, is ten years of Tory austerity and the impact that has had on our health service in responding to this pandemic."

They are working class people who are acting in solidarity in the midst of a global pandemic and I make no apologies for that. Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey

Ms Hargey said that she was "very proud" as communities minister to be involved in giving out more than 18,000 food parcels to those in need during the pandemic in Northern Ireland.

"They need it because they are self-isolating," she said. "Leo referred to those people as poor, I refer to those people, and I was out in my local community this week, they are my community, they are my neighbours, they are my friends.

"They are working class people who are acting in solidarity in the midst of a global pandemic and I make no apologies for that.

"I think those comments were ill-judged, I think he was playing politics with it and I think he needs to reflect on what he has said in terms of playing politics at this time."

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

Do not blame it on the Tories and do not blame it on London. If it was not for their money, it would be even worse. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

Mr Varadkar responded to Ms McDonald by highlighting that payments for the unemployed are far lower in Northern Ireland where Sinn Fein is in power.

He suggested the rates were so low 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. Do not blame it on the Tories and do not blame it on London. If it was not for their money, it would be even worse,” he added.

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

Ms McDonald said she was “very proud” of the community work her members do across the country.

“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.

Belfast Telegraph