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Leo Varadkar with Paul Kehoe (R), who claimed he had received more emails from constituents about transgender issues than the eviction ban Twitter
THE MORNING LEAD

FG ministers got hundreds of emails about evictions - but just 22 about gender and trans issues

A party TD claimed earlier this year that transgender issues were a bigger issue for the public.

FINE GAEL MINISTERS received hundreds of emails from the public about evictions this year compared to just a handful of emails about transgender issues, despite claims suggesting otherwise from one of the party’s TDs.

Paul Kehoe told a meeting of Fine Gael’s parliamentary party in March that he had received more emails about transgender issues in the run up to the expiry of the eviction ban than emails about the ban itself.

The party, along with Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, faced strong political pressure not to allow the ban to lapse on 1 April, with housing and homeless charities warning ahead of the end of the moratorium that it would lead to a surge in homelessness.

But Kehoe reportedly claimed at the Fine Gael meeting, which was held two days before the eviction ban lapsed, that transgender issues were a bigger issue for the public and that a wider debate needed to be held about the subject.

However, numerous responses sent to The Journal under the Freedom of Information Act show that the public contacted senior Fine Gael TDs far more often about evictions and the eviction ban than about gender issues in the months before the ban expired. 

The Journal contacted 12 departments where Fine Gael TDs are Cabinet ministers or junior ministers seeking details of correspondence about both topics.

FOI requests were submitted to the offices of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Enterprise Minister Simon Coveney, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe, Justice and Higher Education Minister Simon Harris and Social Protection Minister Heather Humphreys.

Separate requests were also submitted to the offices of junior ministers Peter Burke, Jennifer Carroll MacNeill, Martin Heydon, Josepha Madigan, Hildegarde Naughton, Kieran O’Donnell, Patrick O’Donovan and Neale Richmond.

According to those responses, 414 emails containing the terms “eviction” or “eviction ban” were sent to the offices of 12 ministers and junior ministers between 1 January and 31 March of this year.

In contrast, just 22 emails were sent to the offices of the same 12 TDs mentioning the terms “trans”, “transgender”, “transgenderism”, “gender”, or “sexuality”.

A selection of correspondence about both issues was also released by some departments, which revealed that some of the emails received by TDs about “gender” issues related to topics such as gender equality and gender quotas.

No replies were received from the Department of Justice or the Department of Social Protection. Two junior ministers received no emails about either subject: junior Defence minister Peter Burke, and junior Agriculture minister Martin Heydon.

Requests for correspondence were only submitted to these departments, as the Freedom of Information Act does not cover correspondence sent to non-ministerial TDs via their Oireachtas email or to the Fine Gael party itself.

The Journal could therefore not verify the level of correspondence sent to Kehoe about either issue.

In response to a request for comment yesterday, the Wexford TD agreed it was his experience that, as he said at the meeting in March, he had received more emails from his constituents about transgender issues than about the eviction ban.

At the same Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is said to have played down the need for a debate on transgender issues.

Reports from the time claim that Varadkar told colleagues that any discussion on the subject would need to be carried out in a respectful manner, and that the issue had been polarising in the UK and US.

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