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It comes as nearly 500 people face homelessness across the county. Alamy Stock Photo

Cork city councillors 'stunned' after tense and abrupt end to eviction ban meeting

Sinn Féin have claimed FG and FF breached council standing orders.

AN EMERGENCY MEETING of Cork City Council ended abruptly yesterday evening when the council voted against a Sinn Féin motion to debate the lifting of the eviction ban. 

The move came on the day it was revealed that almost 500 Cork tenancies were being ended by landlords. 

Sinn Féin are claiming that the decision by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael to block the discussion and terminate the meeting prematurely was a breach of council standing orders.

The meeting was called by four Sinn Féin councillors and Independent councillor Thomas Moloney, alongside a motion calling for the reinstatement of the eviction ban.

Councillors voted not to debate the motion with 13 councillors against and 12 for a debate.

Figures released by the Residential Tenancies Board yesterday revealed in excess of 4,300 notices to quit were served to tenants nationwide in the last three months of 2022, including 475 in Cork. 

Other items on the meeting’s agenda, including an update from the housing strategic policing committee (SPC) on the council’s readiness to face evictions, were not discussed after the vote, according to Sinn Féin councillor Mick Nugent.

Nugent, who was among the group of councillors who tabled the motion, said it was a “pity” that the debate on the eviction ban never took place, but that he was “stunned” that the rest of the meeting’s agenda went undiscussed.

Speaking to The Journal, he said that the meeting was disbanded after just 30 minutes and that Sinn Féin are seeking answers as to why.

He described the outcome as “disappointing for people looking for answers”.

There was a girl there from a family we know well… she’s facing eviction Saturday week and there’s nowhere to go.

“She was coming last night to hear councillors’ opinions on it or to get some assurance from senior officials about the council’s readiness to face what’s coming down the tracks. And that didn’t happen.”

In a statement this morning, Sinn Féin TD Thomas Gould said that Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael blocking the debate from going ahead was “direct breach of standing orders”, and that the party has contacted the council on the matter. 

“Refusing to allow democratic debate in the Council Chamber is unacceptable, especially on an issue that has such grave consequences for so many,” he said.

“There was an agenda for the meeting and it was completely disregarded by councillors, who were eager to avoid accountability from the public.”

The Lord Mayor of Cork and Fine Gael City councillor Deirdre Forde has contradicted these claims.

She told this publication that, to her knowledge, Sinn Féin’s motion was the only issue on the agenda for yesterday’s meeting.

“I’m very particular about letting everybody have their say, but I do follow the procedure,” she said.

“And the procedure in this case, councillors had the full meeting of the SPC [last week] to discuss anything or to query anything.

She said: “At the council meeting, nothing was forthcoming concerning matters pertaining to the SPC until Sinn Féin put in the motion.

Standing orders said it’s up to the Council to discuss it or not. That was the agenda and I stuck the letter.”

She said that councillors will be able to discuss the findings of last week’s SPC at the next meeting on 11 April.

“Point scoring”

Fianna Fáil councillor Seán Martin echoed this sentiment.

He said that the events of last night were about “point scoring”.

“There is a problem here. You know it and I know it and people should stop playing politics and have an upfront discussion on it.

“We did nothing for 9 or 10 years and there were reasons for that as well. But up to a point that was probably carried too far, and now we’re playing catch up.

“But all parties should come to the table and come up with a solution to the housing problem

He said: “We need to work together instead of point scoring. And last night was about point scoring.”

According to Martin, funding was allocated to house individuals and families in 28 properties in Cork at a meeting of the council’s finance committee at 5pm yesterday evening.

“And that’s when Sinn Féin were outside the door doing their campaign while the business has been done inside,” he said.

Nugent said that Martin was “clutching at straws” with this claim. 

Pillows and duvets

Cork’s City Council’s handling of the tenant-in-situ scheme which encourages local authorities to buy properties that have been put up for sale by the landlord will also be for discussion at next week’s SPC. 

The council has only purchased three properties since the scheme’s introduction in April. 

“There are things that have to be thrashed out. That’s for another day and we will be thrashing everything out next Tuesday,” Forde said. 

If that meeting needs people to bring their duvets and their pillows, so be it.”

The eviction ban was lifted last Saturday following a Cabinet decision in March.

Prior to its dissolution, The Journal reported on a public meeting held in Cork that heard from concerned renters, including one 78-year-old woman who had been served a notice to quit the home her family has rented since she was fifteen years old.

It continues to dominate political affairs today, with veteran housing campaigner Fr Peter McVerry claiming that Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien had sought to maintain the eviction ban, only to be overruled by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

He labelled the move as the “worst decision that this Government has taken in its lifetime”.

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