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Macho face-off thankfully replaced by policy as Eoin Ó Broin and Richard Bruton debate housing

The pair got into it on Twitter but kept their shirts on in a radio debate.

Dublin Bay North TD Richard Bruton.
Dublin Bay North TD Richard Bruton.
Image: Twitter/Fine Gael

FINE GAEL AND SINN Féin were happy to hype up a radio debate between Eoin Ó Broin and Richard Bruton but the studied policy discussion it actually turned into was probably a good thing.;

In what is surely some kind of parable for our times, the Twitter chatter about the debate was probably more intense than the actual reality. 

The debate came about after Bruton tweeted taking issue with Ó Broin’s comments about a report detailing the cost developers are charging Dublin City Council for apartments. 

‘Price gouging’ was what Ó Broin called it. Bruton said Ó Broin was ‘misusing’ statistics and that Sinn Féin’s housing policy was ‘threadbare’. Ó Broin quickly called for a ‘public debate’ between the two. RTÉ’s Drivetime was happy to oblige and so it was.

Not everyone was happy with the plan, with Labour Senator and housing spokesperson Rebecca Moynihan calling it “macho posturing” and seeking inclusion in the debate.  

Not too dissimilar a request it must be said than this time last year when Sinn Féin issued a legal letter against RTÉ for its planned exclusion from an election debate. 

The shoe perhaps being on the other foot on this occasion. 

The build up to the debate even seemed to begin in the Dáil earlier when Pearse Doherty and Leo Varadkar clashed about housing during Leaders’ Questions. 

It went along predictable lines, Doherty attacked Fine Gael’s “failed” housing policy and Varadkar said that Sinn Féin’s in the north was no better

The Drivetime debate was of more substance and basically amounted to the pair outlining their party’s ideological approaches to housing. 

The distance between them is perhaps best exemplified by the row over the development at Oscar Traynor Road in Santry, which Dublin City Councillors voted to reject in November.  

TheJournal.ie outlined the various arguments for and against the development at the time. It amounted to a developer using public lands to build 853 new homes, 50% of which would be sold privately, 30% to social housing and 20% affordable housing. 

Speaking about it this evening, Ó Broin said that the affordable housing could not be described as such, and that a two-bed home would be on the market for €357,000.

He said the privately sold homes would be on the market for over €400,000. 

“Because it’s Dublin City Council land there’s no land costs in there, nobody can tell me the €357,000 for two bed apartment in Dublin on public land is a good use of land,” he said.  

What you’re also not being told is that the land isn’t being sold, there’s no market valuation of that land and what was put to councillors last year was the free transfer of public land to a private developer.

Bruton said that the “root of the problem” was that Sinn Fein was sticking to the mantra of “only public housing on public lands”. 

“They are seeking to exclude any private development on these lands. Now if that is allowed to take hold the notion of a State Development Agency to aggressively intervene in the housing market would be stillborn,” he said. 

Bruton went on to say that all parties should support “mixed-developments to cater for all our community”. 

The debate was moving along rather laboriously until RTÉ’s Sarah McInerney intervened with a text from a listener who asked the pair to pick one aspect of the other’s housing policy they could agree with. 

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Neither could do so.

No common ground it seems but at least the debate wasn’t the shouting match that some had feared. Listen and decide for yourself.

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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