Article published by: Juno McEnroe Political Correspondent
Poor old Mary Lou, not so good at taking the criticism, but good to lash it out.
Tensions are rising between the Fine Gael-led Government and Sinn Féin after Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Mary Lou McDonald threw personal taunts at each other across the Dáil chamber.
There were extraordinary scenes in the Dáil at one stage as Ms McDonald stopped in front of the Taoiseach on the floor as she was leaving following the bitter exchanges, a move which prompted the Dáil chair to ask her to move along.
Mr Varadkar attacked Sinn Féin for the second day in a row over its politics and for allegedly shouting people down during a discussion on the North.
“Is it any small wonder the people of Northern Ireland do not have an executive or an assembly?” he said. “It is because this is the attitude of Sinn Féin. They are constantly hectoring and making smart-aleck remarks. There is a lack of temperance, a lack of respect for other people and an inability to listen or to compromise.”
After Ms McDonald asked how compromises should be made to form a new power-sharing executive in the North, Mr Varadkar then said: “The deputy is very cranky today.”
Ms McDonald responded: “I am not cranky at all. I find the Taoiseach facile and dismissive on important issues.”
Then Ms McDonald stood to leave the chamber and crossed the floor, but stopped directly in front of Mr Varadkar’s Dáil seat. The temporary chair of the Dáil, Alan Farrell, said this was “strange” and asked Ms McDonald to leave, to which she said she was doing so.
The scenes came after earlier criticisms from Ms McDonald over the Government’s handling of the state-owned banks and tax breaks for AIB.
She claimed the Government had facilitated a “cosy” deal for AIB whereby it will not pay tax on its profits for the next 20 years. This was confirmed by AIB’s CEO, Bernard Byrne, to an Oireachtas committee this week, a fact that drew claims that the arrangement was an “absolute disgrace”.
The partly State-owned bank will not pay a cent in corporation tax for two decades, despite making €814m in the first half of this year.
The Government say the anomaly arises because the bank has a deferred tax asset of €3bn, an amount which otherwise would have been pumped into its bailout by the State. Ms McDonald noted a decision to allow the banks carry losses into the future was made by the last Fine Gael-led government. The lost taxes amounted to €150m, she said.
“AIB is carrying losses of €3bn,” she said. “Calculated out over 20 years, that is €150m in tax foregone at a time when we desperately need more revenue. The reason the banks have this arrangement is that a Fine Gael government decided to allow banks to carry 100% of their losses and to write it off in that way.”
The arrangement was a “cosy deal” and “another bailout” for the banks, stressed Ms McDonald.
The Taoiseach denied that the agreement had led to “foregone tax”. He told the Dáil: “A change was made in 2014 for a good public policy reason… That then allowed us to spend less money recapitalising the banks. It would have cost us another €3bn at that time to recapitalise them otherwise.”