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Sunday 24 September 2023 Dublin: 16°C
Oireachtas TDs during the vote in the Dáil this afternoon.
# eviction ban
Government wins confidence motion in the Dáil by 86 votes to 67
Green TD Neasa Hourigan, who voted against the government over the eviction ban last week, was among those to vote confidence in the government.

LAST UPDATE | Mar 29th 2023, 12:16 PM

THE GOVERNMENT HAS survived a confidence motion.

86 TDs voted in favour of the government’s motion of confidence that was tabled after Labour sought to table a no-confidence motion.

Green TD Neasa Hourigan, who voted against the government over the eviction ban last week, was among those to vote confidence in the government this afternoon.

Hourigan was expelled from the party for 15 months as a result of her vote last week against the government.

67 TDs voted no confidence in the government.

Earlier this month, Cabinet decided to end the eviction ban from 31 March as was initially planned, despite some initial speculation that it might be extended.

Speaking in the Dáil this morning during the debate, Varadkar said that “if the opposition is successful in winning this vote, it would mean Dáil Eireann would be dissolved tonight”

“There’d be an election in April sometime, the Dáil would not meet until May and it might well be into the summer before we’d have an elected Government,” said Varadkar.

He added that is was “profoundly disingenuous” of Labour to bring forward the motion knowing “the eviction moratorium would lapse on 31 March anyway and no new primary legislation could be passed to deal with the housing crisis for several months”.

Varadkar claimed the Labour motion is an example of “political theatre” and “performance art”.

He added that the motion is about “competition for attention on the opposition benches”.   

Elsewhere, Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe hit out at Labour’s conference pledge to build“one million homes in 10 years”.

Donohoe said he listened to this “with a sense of worry” and asked on “what land, with what workers, and with what money” would these homes be built. 

‘Low targets missed’

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald meanwhile accused the government of turning a “housing crisis into a housing emergency into a housing disaster”.

She added that their record is one of “low targets set, low targets missed” and that “instead of building houses, the government poured billions into the private rental market”. 

McDonald added: “Nero fiddles, while Rome burns.”

The Sinn Féin leader also claimed Varadkar has “zero regard” for the sense of “hopelessness” that those served with notices of termination feel. 

“Housing can be fixed, but only a change of government will solve this housing crisis,” said McDonald, “and we in Sinn Féin wish to lead that government.”

McDonald finished by saying that the government was “out of ideas, out of touch, out of time” and called for a general election.

Sinn Féin’s Louise O’Reilly described the eviction ban as the “only protection in place against homeless” and added that teachers are “being driven to Australia” because many can’t afford rental prices in Ireland. 

Labour leader Ivana Bacik, who had tabled the no-confidence motion, said it was Varadkar who was “engaged in some political theatrics and performative anger”.

She said the lifting of the eviction ban will be “disastrous” and the “wrong choice”.

“Your policy has failed and that’s why we have tabled a motion of no confidence, it is a responsible thing to do given the scale of the catastrophe facing us,” said Bacik.

There were somewhat heated scenes in the Dáil when Green Party leader Eamon Ryan accused the opposition of failing to acknowledge the “safety nets” that had been enacted to coincide with the ending of the eviction ban, such as the expansion of the tenant in situ scheme.

“Let’s not just say slogans, let’s not play politics with housing, let’s work on real solutions,” said Ryan. 

Justice Minister Simon Harris also accused Labour TD Aodhán Ó Ríordáin of “wagging” his finger at him.

“You’re not a múinteoir anymore, you don’t need to wag your finger at me,” Harris said to Ó Ríordáin. 

Harris also accused Ó Ríordáin of objecting to “more homes than any other member of Dáil Éireann. 

Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl said the debate was a “disgrace” with “constant heckling and interruption”.

“Respect the people that sent us here and are watching this debate,” he added.

‘Time is running out’

Holly Cairns, leader of the Social Democrats, said there will be “more votes of no confidence” if today’s motion fails because “time is running out for this government”.

“The people lost confidence in this government a long time ago and it is not coming back,” said Cairns.

She added: “Every day we hear the same attempts to spin failure into success. Somehow weakness becomes tenacity, delay becomes urgency, defeat becomes victory.”

Cairns also said that ending the eviction ban will “increase homelessness”, but claimed that the “government doesn’t seem to care”. 

Cairns also hit out at Green Party leader Eamon Ryan for describing the tenant in situ scheme as a “safety net”. 

“Does the government actually know how safety nets work? It’s supposed to be in place before you fall,” said Cairns. 

She added that “most tenants don’t have a hope of being able to afford their rental homes”.

“In case the Green Party didn’t seem to know,” said Cairns, ” house prices are at record highs.”

People Before Profit TD and spokesperson on housing Richard Boyd Barrett said: “No matter how much they try to spin it, this debate is happening because you have taken the cruel and cold-hearted decision to allow thousands of people to be evicted from next Saturday”.

Fellow People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy said people affected by the ending of the eviction ban should remain in place if they have no where else to go, and appeal to the Residential Tenancies Board.

“Do not make yourself homeless. Threshold said yesterday that over half of all notices to quit that they see are invalid,” said Murphy.

“Even if the eviction notice is valid, you should still not leave your home if you have nowhere to go. You should inform your landlord that you will not be leaving and continue to pay your rent,” he added.

Deputy Mick Barry then called on TDs to “evict this government, not the renters”.

Barry also said that US actor Will Smith will forever be remembered for “socking [Chris Rock] on the jaw” at the Oscars last year, and claimed that ending the eviction ban is this government’s “Will Smith moment” of “sheer, unadultered, fecking madness”. 

Varadkar had previously refuted the impact that ending the eviction ban would have on homelessness levels, telling reporters that notices to quit are not the sole reason people end up homeless.

“It’s not simply people who’ve had a notice to quit served on them. If you look at the last couple of months, when the number of people in emergency accommodation has increased every month and there was an eviction ban in place, what were the reasons?” he said.

“It was family breakdown, it was all sorts of different other issues as to why people look for emergency accommodation – increasing numbers of families and people from overseas as well seeking emergency accommodation.”

Yesterday evening, Sinn Féin tabled legislation to attempt to extend the eviction ban until 31 January 2024.

The bill, which used the same wording as the Government’s eviction ban, was brought forward by Sinn Féin’s housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin.

Speaking yesterday, Ó Broin had appealed to Independent TDs to vote to extend the ban, despite a previous motion on the matter failing last week.

“The reason why we tabled the bill today is because we wanted to give every member of the old era and a very simple opportunity to state clearly and categorically through a vote of legislation as to whether they were in favour of extending this crucial protection for renters, or whether they were going to vote to increase homelessness,” Ó Broin told the Dáil.

The previous motion was defeated by 83 votes to 68 votes.

However, Green Party TD Neasa Hourigan opted to vote against the Government and has since been suspended from the parliamentary party for the next 15 months.

-With additional reporting from Diarmuid Pepper

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