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'Taoiseach, I can only surmise that you are delusional': Mary Lou says Leo should sack his housing minister

There had been reports that the Junior Minister would abstain from voting on the motion of no confidence in her government colleague.

Updated Sep 25th 2018, 2:55 PM

SINN FÉIN PARTY leader Mary Lou McDonald has called on the Taoiseach to sack his Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy. 

Murphy is facing a motion of no confidence tabled by Sinn Féin due to an increase in the numbers of people who are homeless since his tenure.

Not only is in the firing line from the opposition benches, Murphy is also facing criticisms from those within his own party.

The housing minister is understood to have spoken to his colleague Junior Minister Catherine Byrne ahead of a motion of no confidence in him this evening due to reports yesterday that Byrne would abstain from voting for or against the motion.

This is due to a prospective housing development in her constituency of Inchicore which Byrne had raised her objections to.

It is still unclear how she will vote. The Taoiseach is due to meet Byrne later today, however, it is understood the government’s view is that this project is about building much-needed houses that will benefit the area.

During Leaders’ Questions today, McDonald said the government’s plans to fix the housing crisis are failing. She questioned why the Taoiseach could not see this. 

“I can only surmise that you are actually delusional… you seem to believe that everything is okay, that everything is on track,” said McDonald.

She called on Varadkar to sack his housing minister and put new ideas in place.

“Your plans are not working… you have failed, your minister has failed.”

In response, Varadkar went on the attack and said that Sinn Féin were engaging in political point scoring.

“We all know what this is about… this is about scoring political points… this is all we have from Sinn Féin,” said the Taoiseach, who accused the party of not really caring about homelessness and delivering homes. 

 The motion of no confidence in the minister is due to be voted on in the Dáil later this evening, leaving just a few hours for the minister to shore-up support from his party colleague, Catherine Byrne.   

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has indicated that, should a government minister vote against the administration with regard to a motion of no confidence, he would have little choice but to sack them.

The Cabinet held an incorporeal meeting earlier this morning to discuss the government’s approach to confidence motion.

Following the meeting, a government spokesperson said the government’s “focus remains on delivery and solutions”, adding that the Sinn Féin motion is “devoid of solutions and will not take a single person off our streets”.

Responding to those reports, Murphy told Morning Ireland ”I don’t know what her position is”.

“I have engaged with Catherine on a number of occasions on this really fantastic proposal for her constituency.”

Speaking to reporters this afternoon, Murphy confirmed that he will be meeting Byrne later today. 

“Catherine is trying to represent her constituency in what way she thinks is best. She is trying to meet concerns that she has for her constituents … I think it’s important that she does that,” he said. 

I’ve spoken to her on many occasions about the difficulties that she has in her constituency and I hope that she can understand that we can find a solution to those problems, but I also hope that she isn’t pulled into the stunt that Sinn Féin is trying to pull tonight. 

When asked if he thinks he will still have a job as Housing Minister tomorrow, Murphy said: “We have a motion tonight, we’ll have a debate, there’ll be a vote and I’ll be the Housing Minister in the morning.” 

Murphy added on Morning Ireland that the motion was disingenuous and irresponsible, and what Sinn Féin needed to do was put forward its counter policy for how to tackle the housing crisis.

“If you have a rent that’s pinning you to your collar… this motion will do nothing to you.”

Speaking to reporters this afternoon, he added: “I think given the severity of the crisis we are facing we could expect something a little bit more responsible from the opposition than just protests, stunts and motions with no substance.

“I think it’s very unfortunate that Sinn Féin is not coming forward with actual proposals this evening that we could debate and perhaps agree on but I’m very confident in the fact that this government will continue to do its work and I will continue as Housing Minister to implement the solutions that we have under Rebuilding Ireland.”

Sinn Féin housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin said that what it achieves is it “will put enormous pressure on the government” and demonstrates that the government’s plan for housing “is failing”.

Labour’s Alan Kelly said his party will be supporting the motion of no confidence in the minister due to the fact the issue of homelessness has escalated under his watch.

He said there have been a lot of announcements and “ribbon-cutting” but nothing has delivered the number of houses that are needed. Kelly said the issue of evictions is one that the government needs to tackle also, while rent should be linked to the Consumer Price Index (CPI). Immediate regulation of Airbnb must also be implemented.

“Many of this actions, if brought together, could have a quick impact,” he added. 

Fianna Fáil has decided to abstain on the vote, with party leader Micheál Martin stating that a motion of no confidence will not build any more homes. 

With the Dáil numbers tight, the Taoiseach will need every government TD in the chamber to ensure the motion is defeated.

The vote on the motion of no confidence is at 8pm tonight.

With reporting by Hayley Halpin and Christina Finn

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