| 10°C Belfast

Sinn Fein: Leo Varadkar's food parcels jibe is just cheap politicking

Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill has criticised Taoiseach Leo Varadkar following a row over Sinn Fein ministers delivering food packages to vulnerable and elderly people.

Mr Varadkar rebuked republicans for delivering food parcels and posting pictures on Facebook during a heated debate on the Covid-19 unemployment payment in the Dail 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.

Mrs O'Neill, on a visit to Dungannon yesterday, accused Mr Varadkar of engaging in party politics.

"Leo Varadkar's policy and Fine Gael's policy will always be akin to a Tory policy," she said.

"I believe that his comments were unbefitting of even a caretaker Taioseach.

Daily Headlines Newsletter & Evening Telegraph Newsletter

Receive today's headlines directly to your inbox every morning.

This field is required

"I'll make no apology for any Sinn Fein minister, or any minister for that matter, looking after those people who need them right now, people who are shielding, people who can't get out to buy their own food. So Leo's comments are more about party politics and the fact that he wants to try and form a government at the exclusion of Sinn Fein."

Earlier Sinn Fein Stormont Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey said the Taoiseach's comments were "ill-judged".

"I think he is rattled from the last election and the success of the Sinn Fein vote there," she told the BBC's Good Morning Ulster. "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 10 years of Tory austerity and the impact that has had on our health service in responding to this pandemic."

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

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 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.

In response Sinn Fein highlighted pictures on Twitter showing Irish 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.

Download the Belfast Telegraph App

Get quick and easy access to the latest Northern Ireland news, sport, business and opinion with the Belfast Telegraph App.

Download on the app store Get it on Google Play


Top Videos



Privacy