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Sinn Féin's Housing Spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin
Private Members Motion

Eoin Ó Broin deems housing minister 'an embarrassment' in heated debate over housing

Sinn Féin introduced a motion to the Dail tonight calling for a housing emergency to be declared.

LAST UPDATE | 22 Nov 2022

THE MINISTER FOR Housing has defended his track record during a Dáil debate on whether a housing emergency should be declared.

In tense exchanges across the chamber, Sinn Féin accused Darragh O’Brien of being “an embarrassment”, and the minister in turn accused his opposition marker of being arrogant.

The Government put forward a counter motion to the Sinn Féin private members’ motion seeking to declare a “housing emergency”.

The Sinn Féin motion aims to declare a ‘housing emergency’ as well as achieve support for the Raise the Roof protest in Dublin this Saturday, which is set to begin at Parnell Square at 1pm.

Introducing the motion this evening, Sinn Fein’s housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin said that if a housing emergency is declared, “then as night follows day, emergency actions must follow”.

Addressing a repeated charge from Taoiseach Micheál Martin that the opposition has no alternative plan to solve Ireland’s housing crisis, Ó Broin said that Sinn Féin is calling for a ban on rent increases, an end to no-fault evictions, and that 20,000 social and affordable homes a year should be built.

Addressing the minister, Ó Broin said: “Join with us to declare an emergency and finally accept that you have to change your housing policy. Or if you don’t, the people will change the government.”

“Two-and-a-half years, minister. You’re out of time, we urgently need a change.”

Ó Broin also took aim at the government’s lengthy counter motion, running five pages long.

Independent TD Catherine Connolly said that the Green Party needs to decide what level of homelessness is acceptable, as official figures have put the figures at record highs for three months in a row.

‘Housing for some’

She said that the minister’s Housing for All plan represented “housing for some”, and that there was an inbuilt “snobbery” in the State’s current approach to providing housing.

Various opposition TDs also criticised comments made by Tánaiste Leo Varadkar at the weekend, where he made the claim that the “grass looks greener” abroad but that rents were not lower.

Responding to Sinn Féin’s motion, O’Brien said that there was nothing more important than tackling the housing crisis “head on”, and claimed that his Housing for All plan represented a “fundamental step change”.

He said: “The scale of the challenge is enormous, housing is an emergency for all of those people who are homeless, struggling to pay rent, or trying to find somewhere affordable to buy and I’ve repeatedly said that.

“But there is light at the end of the tunnel and Housing for All will get us there.

“The plan is starting to work and will deliver 300,000 new homes by 2030 to finally help to solve the housing crisis that we’re in.”

Outlining the policies he believed represented this change, O’Brien listed the “game-changer” shared equity scheme, the expansion of the Help-to-Buy scheme, a €50,000 grant for vacant and derelict properties, and affordable purchase homes starting at €166,000 in Dublin.

He also cited the cost-rental plan, where homes are available at 25% below the market value, and the one-off renters’ tax credit announced as part of Budget 2023.

“We’ve banned co-living and will end build-to-rent only apartments,” he added.

“I want to assure the Dáil that I will use every weapon in our armoury to get bricks and mortar into the ground for homes for working people that they can afford, and support those without adequate shelter.”

He said that the Sinn Féin motion was “a cynical approach” that was “about semantics”, and there was no detailed plan from the opposition.

In a flare up, Ó Broin accused the minister of being the worst housing minister in decades and of being an embarrassment.

O’Brien said the comments were personal and asked them to be withdrawn. He then accused Ó Broin of being arrogant.

‘Asleep at the wheel’

Earlier this morning, Ó Broin also criticised the Government’s housing policy.

“Over the last number of days we’ve seen all the manifestations of the failure of Fianna Fáil Fine Gael’s housing policy.

“We’ve seen CSO reports last week showing house prices continue to rise, report today showing rents continue to rise.”

He said O’Brien was “clearly asleep at the wheel”.

“This is the minister, who only two only two weeks ago said he didn’t believe we were in the middle of a housing emergency”.

550People Before Profit Labour Senator Rebecca Moynihan, Sinn Féin TD Eoin Ó Broin, Social Democrats TD Cian O'Callaghan, PBP TD Richard Boyd Barrett and Right to Change TD Joan Collins

Ó Broin said that by declaring an emergency, the Government would then be able to take emergency action to help tackle the crisis, including a ban on rent increases and more funding for local authorities to buy properties with HAP or RAS tenants in situ.

The spokesperson for the Government said that they has consistently said that housing is the single biggest policy issue, adding that the Housing for All plan is focused on actions such as planning reforms and modern construction solutions.

The spokesperson added that was a “cynical Sinn Féin motion” whereby the party was “cynically and glibly” calling it an emergency without offering solutions. They said “it’s about actions and that’s what Government is doing”.

When asked if Sinn Féin are considering a motion of no-confidence in the Housing Minister, Ó Broin said that it was not being considered “at this time”.

However, he said that the planned rotation of Taoiseach on 17 December would be a vote of confidence.

“There is going to be a vote of confidence in this Government. It’s going to be in December when Tweedledum and Tweedledee change positions.”

Under the Programme for Government, the position of Taoiseach is set to rotate between Micheál Martin and Leo Varadkar, with Varadkar becoming Taoiseach and Martin becoming Tánaiste.

Leaders’ Questions

At Leaders’ Questions this afternoon, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald raised the latest Daft rental report, questioning who can afford the high rents and referring to the housing crisis as an emergency.

SF_leader Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald in the Dáil chamber during Leaders' Questions

“Taoiseach, it just just off the wall. Who can afford to pay these insane sums of money?” McDonald asked, answering that “very few” can afford rent in cities.

“Working people can’t afford to rent working people can’t afford to buy and social housing delivery is nowhere near what’s needed.”

In response, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that the Government acknowledges the housing crisis is an emergency and that “we have treated this issue as an emergency from day one”.

Martin in particular raised Government legislation and schemes, saying that they have now begun to bear fruit.

Additional reporting by Christina Finn and the Press Association

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