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Murphy attacks Sinn Féin 'stunt' as no confidence motion submitted against Housing Minister

Sinn Féin has submitted motion of no confidence in Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy, but it won’t have Fianna Fáil backing.

Eoghan Murphy and Eoin Ó Broin
Eoghan Murphy and Eoin Ó Broin
Image: RollingNews.ie

Updated Sep 11th 2018, 6:34 PM

MINISTER FOR HOUSING Eoghan Murphy has accused Sinn Féin of “playing bad politics” and being “totally devoid of solutions” on housing after the party submitted a motion of no confidence in him.

Sinn Féin today submitted the motion of no confidence in Minister Murphy, which will be debated in the Dáil on Tuesday 25 September. 

Earlier, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin defended his party’s decision not to support Sinn Féin’s motion of no confidence in Murphy. 

Speaking outside Leinster House this morning, Sinn Féin spokesperson for housing Eoin Ó Broin said that the housing crisis has “gone from bad to worse” during Fine Gael’s time in government. 

Outlining why he is submitting the motion, Ó Broin said: “Eoghan Murphy has been in office for 15 months and what have we seen? A 25% increase in homelessness, a 34% increase in child homelessness, a 40% increase in pensioner homelessness.

“The core of this is as follows – the problem is Rebuilding Ireland, the government’s plan, is not working.”

He added that “a credible minister” would go to Cabinet and say “we need a change of plan”.

“Instead, what is Eoghan Murphy doing? He’s criticising everybody else for his own failures and he’s failing his policies are working,” Ó Broin said.

“Our view is very clear, he has to go.” 

‘Garner attention’

In a statement this evening, Minister Eoghan Murphy said Sinn Féin had spent “months playing bad politics” on this motion of no confidence.

“Their primary aim is to garner attention and headlines for themselves,” he said. “Today’s motion proves that.”

The motion is totally devoid of solutions and will not take a single person off our streets, out of emergency accommodation or into a permanent home. The stunt offers nothing constructive.

He added that Sinn Féin could have sought to garner support for its housing plan in the Dáil but “they did not because they do not have a plan”. 

The minister also attacked the party over a motion it proposed in South Dublin County Council last night, which backed writing to the minister over concerns on affordable housing in a large new housing development.

Murphy added his focus remains on “delivery and solutions”. 

No backing from Fianna Fáil

Earlier this month, Fianna Fáil’s Micheál Martin said his party will not support the motion. 

Speaking on RTÉ’s Sean O’Rourke programme, Martin said he had an obligation to support the government on certain issues as part of confidence and supply.

When asked about whether his party would support the Sinn Féin motion, he said: “No. I’ve said this before the summer. Motions of no confidence are not going to build a single house. We’re going to focus on the budget to get a prioritisation around housing.”

Defending the decision to reporters today at the launch of the Fianna Fáil think-in in Malahide, Martin said:

“Eoghan Murphy is minister right now. If there is a motion of no confidence, I’ve said consistently that we will uphold the confidence and supply. I said that last March, that hasn’t changed. If we were not to abstain on that motion, we would be in breach of the confidence and supply. We don’t believe a motion of no confidence is the way to go in terms of the housing issue, right now.”

Martin said he was shocked to hear the minister and Taoiseach “trying to blame local authorities for their own shortcomings in the housing crisis”.

At the Fine Gael think-in last week, Murphy said he had issued an ultimatum to councils he thought were failing to deliver on their social housing targets, stating that he would use the powers he has to step in and take control of housing divisions.

The Fianna Fáil leader said there was “shock and horror” when he visited Dun Laoghaire yesterday over the comments, stating that the council in that area had submitted a proposal for 540 houses in Shanganagh last February.

Holding up local councils 

“The application went in it is now September and the minister has not given sanction in principle to that council to proceed with those 540 houses and there is another in Ballyogan, social housing, and again hasn’t got any sanction and you can go to county councils all over the country and they will tell you off the long delays between the submission of applications for housing schemes and sanctioning from the minister.

“So the minister needs to get out of the way in terms of blocking councils from getting on with the job in delivering the housing schemes they want to deliver urgenty. I think it was a pathetic blame game to try and deflect attention from their own failings,” said Martin.

When asked by TheJournal.ie whether Fianna Fáil had a certain level of blame for the housing crisis, given that it is keeping Fine Gael in power, Martin said his party has tabled legislation and proposals.

“But we’re not the executive. In our system of government, in our parliamentary system, it’s the executive that has the power to execute and deliver policy. We’re not Ministers, we’re not in government.

“We are holding them to account. This is part of holding them to account. We’ve already affected some changes in terms of housing, in terms of HAP payments and allowances and so on like that. But we also said that the confidence and supply, we’re going to uphold. We do believe that’s important in the broader sense in terms of how the country is run.

“We have held the government to account but we’re not in an executive position,” said Martin. 

When will FF make that call?

When asked by this website when enough will be enough in terms of the rise in homeless figures, Martin said:

“As I said last March, we are committed to the confidence and supply. Motions don’t build houses, they have absolutely no impact in terms of providing affordable housing for young couples next year. It will have none at all. I’m not going to indulge in more political theatre which is not related to the needs of the people out there who need housing.”

He said the rise in the homeless figures is “an indictment of the government and its failings and we’re going to use the budget to try and bring in a fundamental change of direction”.

Then there’s a review of the confidence and supply in the aftermath of the budget. You can take it that housing will be a very substantial item on that agenda.

We believe the people ultimately will judge Eoghan Murphy and the Fine Gael party in terms of its failings in housing. We’re trying to facilitate a greater supply of housing, a greater supply of rental properties.

Speaking today, Ó Broin said that he was “deeply disappointed” by Martin’s “very quick decision to reject the Sinn Féin motion”. 

 The motion of no confidence will read as follows:

This Dáil notes that:Fine Gael have been in office for seven years and during that time homelessness has increased to unprecedented levels, house prices and rents have spiralled out of control, and tens of thousands of households are unable to access secure and affordable homes.Rebuilding Ireland has been in place for two years and has clearly failed to address the causes of our housing crisis. Underinvestment in social and affordable housing and over reliance on the private sector has exacerbated the crisis. Eoghan Murphy has been Minister for Housing for 15 months and, on his watch, homelessness has increased 25%, child homelessness has increased 34%, pensioner homelessness has increased 40%; rents have increased 7% and house prices 6%, and social housing delivery remains glacial, not a single affordable home has been delivered by any central government scheme, private sector output in the main is overpriced and unaffordable, and vacant housing stock remains higher than the norm in comparable countries.
This Dáil:Does not have confidence in Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy and calls for him to be removed from office.Calls on the Government to accept that Rebuilding Ireland has failed and to urgently introduce a new housing plan that will meet social and affordable housing need through an ambitious programme of public housing provision and tackle homelessness through a greater focus on prevention and reduction of the length of time adults and children spend in emergency accommodation.

“There’s going to be a real cost if he continues to support Eoghan Murphy and Rebuilding Ireland, and that cost will be increased homelessness, longer housing waiting lists, increased unaffordability and the housing crisis is going to get worse and worse,” he said. 

“It’s time for Micheál Martin to put up or shut up,” he said. 

“He either stands with the people who are suffering from Murphy’s failures or he continues to support a failing minister and a failing housing policy”.

Previous motions

This is not the first time that Sinn Féin has threatened to put down a motion of no confidence in the housing minister. 

The threat of a motion of no confidence was raised after earlier this year when Murphy was criticised over his handling of the homelessness crisis and the government’s efforts to tackle the housing shortage.

But it was announced at the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis in June that the party would drop the motion of no confidence in Murphy.

Speaking earlier this month, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said Murphy is “failing and out of touch”. 

“Sinn Féin would make the difference in housing. The policy of this government is failing the homeless, failing those renting and those who strive to own a home. We now have a generation of workers who will never afford to own a home,” she added. 

Latest figures show that the number of homeless people and families in the State has increased to a record new level. 

The Department of Housing has recorded that there were 6,024 adults and 3,867 children in emergency accommodation during the week of 23-29 July.

This represents a decrease of 24 adults but an increase of 43 children on the previous month, meaning an overall increase of 19 people.

The number of families affected also increased from 1,754 to the latest number of 1,778.

With reporting by Christina Finn, Sean Murray

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