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'No big surprise if the Dáil doesn't return next week': Campaigning well under way as FG target FF housing policy

Fine Gael general election candidates have been given a document targeting Fianna Fáil’s housing policy.

Fine Gael TD Fergus O'Dowd
Fine Gael TD Fergus O'Dowd
Image: PA Archive/PA Images

IT WILL BE no big surprise if the Dáil does not return next week, according to one Fine Gael TD, who said election campaigning is well and truly underway.

Louth TD Fergus O’Dowd said today that he and every other TD are out canvassing. 

The general election “is coming whether it is next week, next month or the month after – it’s here… it’s here and it’s now,” he told RTÉ’s Sean O’Rourke show

He added that he would like to see the Dáil return as the FAI are due before the Oireachtas Committee on Sport but said “if it doesn’t it won’t be a big surprise”. 

His comments come as Fine Gael general election candidates have been given a document targeting Fianna Fáil’s housing policy ahead of the FG parliamentary party meeting on Friday.

Holding a parliamentary party meeting on a Friday, and dragging rural TDs away from their constituencies days before the Dáil is set to return, is seen as a most unusual move and is fueling speculation that the Taoiseach might cut and run from his deal with FF and call an early general election. 

The party meeting is to be held after Leo Varadkar meets with Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin on Thursday evening to discuss when the next general election might be.

While all eyes will be on the outcome of those talks, which will ultimately decide whether the public go to the polls next month or whether this government can keep the show on the road, the Fine Gael document is seen as the latest attack in the party’s not-so-subtle ‘reckless Fianna Fáil’ campaign the party has been pushing the last few months. 

The Fine Gael briefing document attacks Fianna Fáil on housing policies, which are dubbed as, “illegal, counterproductive, already in place or paper thin” by TD Colm Brophy who drafted the brief. 

The document states that Fine Gael know Fianna Fáil’s game plan when it comes to the election and housing issues stating that the party will “endlessly criticise the Government’s housing plan”. 

“When asked to present their own policies, they will only produce soundbites. They will not produce any meaningful policies until the last possible moment – if even then – so that they avoid all scrutiny of their policies,” it states. 

Brophy states that the Fianna Fáil approach will aim to “hoodwink” the Irish people. 

The document hits out at Martin’s plan to launch a Special Saver Scheme which will help tenants save up a deposit. Brophy states that Fianna Fáil have not provided a cost for the proposal and argues it will cost an estimated €1.74 billion.

However, the document is seen by Fianna Fáilers as a deflection against the government’s own failings in housing since it entered power.

The number of homeless people in Ireland now stands at over 10,400, according to official figures from the Department of Housing. 

The latest report for November stated that there are 6,696 homeless adults and 3,752 homeless children – meaning there is a total of 10,448 people without a home. This is slightly down from October’s figures which showed slightly over 10,500 were in emergency accommodation.

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A total of 4,509 adults are homeless in the capital. 2,636 of these people are men and 1,873 are women. Most of those without a home in the capital are aged between 25 and 55. 

Fianna Fáil’s Housing spokesperson Darragh O’Brien hit out against the government’s Rebuilding Ireland housing policies today, telling the Irish Daily Mail that they are “failing spectacularly”.

He said the government’s response to housing has been characterised by photo opportunities with hard hats and yellow vests. 

Before Christmas, Varadkar said he was not ashamed of his government’s record when it comes to housing.

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