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Oireachtas
eviction ban

Government wins counter motion vote against extending eviction ban

Green Party TD Neasa Hourigan voted against the government’s counter motion, which passed 83 votes to 68.

LAST UPDATE | 22 Mar 2023

GOVERNMENT HAS WON a vote in the Dáil today on the eviction ban.

Sinn Féin had tabled a motion calling for the eviction ban to be extended to January 2024.

However, a counter motion was tabled by the Government on the issue, which was passed by 83 to 68.

Green TD Neasa Hourigan voted against the government, as she had promised to do last week.

Hourigan abstained on votes amending the government’s motion, one from the Regional Independent Group and one amendment from Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín.

Tóibín then asked that the vote on his amendment be held again by roll call because it had lost by a margin of six votes.

In a tense debate on lifting the ban in the Dáil earlier this afternoon, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said that the coalition government has “thrown in the towel” on fixing the housing crisis.

She said that Fine Gael has spearheaded housing policies that have left “tens of thousands trapped in a private rental nightmare”, and said the government’s message to “3,000 households losing their homes come April is ‘you are on your own’.”

McDonald repeatedly called on the Taoiseach to “reverse this cruel decision and extend the ban”.

While Taoiseach Leo Varadkar acknowledged that Ireland is facing a “housing emergency”, he said that social housing is the solution, and that postponing the end of the eviction ban is not. 

Immediately before the first round of voting began Labour’s Ged Nash stood up and asked how much money it had cost the Government to “buy the votes of the Independents” in exchange for their support on the counter-motion.

Reaction

Following to the result of the vote this evening, Sinn Féin’s housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin has reiterated his comments from last night’s debate, stating that ending the ban will lead to “levels of homelessness never before thought possible”.

“Every TD present today had “a clear choice to make, and shame on Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, the Green Party – every one of their backbenchers – and those independent TDs who knowingly chose to make ordinary people in their communities homeless,” he said.

Ó Broin said many people will be forced to move in with family and friends, emigrate, or seek emergency accommodation, which is “already at capacity in many local authorities across the state”.

“This means people will be forced to sleep rough, while families with children will be referred to Garda stations for a safe place to sleep,” he continued.

“That is the shameful legacy of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Tánaiste Micheál Martin, the Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien, and all those who supported their decision today.”

Mary Lou McDonald, speaking to the Sinn Féin parliamentary group meeting this evenin said:

“The government may have won their vote this evening, but they have categorically lost the argument. It is pyrrhic victory. The consequences of their actions for workers and families will be catastrophic. Government and Independent TDs voted to make more people homeless. It is a despicable decision.”

Labour leader Ivana Bacik said the decision to lift the ban is “indefensible”. 

“Government TDs’ vote in the Dáil today has confirmed what we already know: they do not have renters’ interests at heart, and they do not understand the magnitude of the social disaster we face due to homelessness and the lifting of the eviction ban,” she said.

“Families facing a cliff edge from 1 April have no safety net in place. Hastily announced measures from Government this week will do nothing for those who will lose their home at the end of this week. There is no emergency accommodation available.”

She said her party have “no option” but to table a motion of no confidence in the Government on 29 March.

“It is not an action we take lightly, but we are in a situation where the Government has announced a decision at the last minute, and contrary to what it had indicated, which will have devastating consequences for households around the country.

“It is being done without any contingency, except a series of last minute measures which could, and should, have been taken months ago.” 

‘Hopeless outlook’ for renters

National housing charity Threshold has this evening implored the Government to reinstate the eviction ban as “record numbers” of adults and children could be facing homelessness as a result of lifting it.

CEO John-Mark McCafferty said that overall data from the charity from 1 November to 21 March shows that Threshold advisors received queries from 1,853 renters who face eviction once the ban lifts.

“It is highly likely that this number will exceed 2,000 by the end of the month. The Government’s decision to end the ban at the end of the month is fuelling a hopeless outlook for renters in Ireland,” he said.

“The ban on evictions was to provide a ‘breathing space’ for positive changes to be implemented and improvements in supply to take place. Unfortunately, we are yet to see the outcome of Government action in this respect.

It is disheartening to hear of the Government speaking of measures for Budget 2024. This is six months away. Renters need improved support now. 

McCafferty said that measures such as expanding the ‘tenant in situ’ scheme to include renters who are within cost rental income limits and those who are at risk of homelessness, and to make provisions for Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs) to manage homes in the scheme on a cost rental basis.

Homeless Charity Depaul has said the focus now “must firmly centre on the availability of temporary accommodation in each local authority area and the efficient implementation of government measures”.

Depaul CEO David Carroll said the charity will not know whether enough temporary accommodation will be available until people begin to present.

“Depaul currently provides 626 temporary accommodation beds across Ireland. We are primarily a service provider and we need to be able to deal with the consequences of what may come. All of our services are at capacity and there is little scope for us to increase bed numbers,” he said.

“Temporary accommodation or the streets should not be seen as the inevitable destination for those facing eviction.”

Carroll said measures announced by the Government will require further analysis and are welcome, “but the effectiveness of the planned schemes will be critical to prevent households ending up in temporary accommodation”.

“Vulnerable households (older and disabled people) are particularly at risk of not being able to negotiate what will be on offer and will therefore require specific support.”

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