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Dublin: 14 °C Tuesday 21 May, 2019
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Simon Coveney says the government's 'hugely ambitious' social housing programme is working

Coveney was standing in for Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, who is in Brussels to meet the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier.

6 Simon Coveney Source: Oireachtas TV

THE GOVERNMENT’S ‘HUGELY ambitious’ social housing is working according to Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney.

Speaking at leaders’ questions in Leinster House, Coveney came under fire from Sinn Féin finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty regarding government housing policy and the Raise the Roof housing march and demonstration held outside the gates of Dáil Éireann yesterday.

After Doherty asserted that “enough is enough” and that people want “real solutions and action, not your understanding”, Coveney suggested that the country is “in the middle of a very pressurised situation” regarding the accommodation crisis.

“The government’s biggest priority is housing and has been for some time,” Coveney said, adding that it has built 8,000 social housing unit so far this year.

We are talking about adding another 100,000 houses over time, which is hugely ambitious, over time.

“The delay is not about capital investment, it is about process and capacity,” he added, responding to Doherty’s assertion that the government needs to double its investment in housing solutions.

7 Pearse Doherty Source: Oireachtas TV

Doherty also argued that the government has not delivered 8,000 homes this year, rather the figure is 5,500.

“More than one third of households are spending more than 30% of their income on rent. 70% of modest income households are spending more than 30% of that income,” he said.

“It is an absolute scandal,” adding that Sinn Féin’s solution would be to introduce a temporary tax relief for renters and a three-year emergency rent freeze.

Fianna Fáil’s Dara Calleary meanwhile quizzed Coveney on the government’s approach to FEMPI (Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest) legislation as regards general practitioners and the trouble Ireland is having in maintaining the industry.

“Clearly there is no dialogue” between the government and GP representative organisations, Calleary said, in response to Coveney saying that he could not comment “while that dialogue is ongoing”.

5 Dara Calleary Source: cianan

“The National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP) is not involved (in dialogue),” Calleary said. “70% of GPs won’t take new patients because of the pressures on their practice. We can’t have effective access to such care when there are no resources to take on new patients.”

He added that the Australian government is “actively targeting people from this country because of of their training and skills”.

The Minister for Health is asleep on the watch on this one.

Independent TD Clare Daly also quizzed Coveney on the problems fully crewing Ireland’s naval vessels, particularly with regard to the protection of Irish fishing waters.

“Our naval service is in meltdown,” she said, adding that “bullied overworked crews are being forced to go out to give the illusion of a functioning navy”.

She said the issues were not merely about pay alone, a consistent issue being raised by Defence Forces representative bodies such as PDFORRA and WPDF, but about the “chronic mismanagement of the Defence Forces, and the government running “pet projects” in defence to “cosy up” to the EU military establishment.

“Why are we getting a costly ninth vessel when we don’t even have the crew for eight?” she asked.

Responding, Coveney said that he had “absolute confidence” in the Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces, while Ceann Comhairle Sean Ó Fearghail admonished Daly for making accusations against named people “who are not here to defend themselves”.

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