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Taoiseach defends Govt housing policy, says O'Brien will remain in role after Cabinet reshuffle

The Government is not happy with the record high homelessness figures, Micheál Martin says.

Taoiseach speaking to the media at the FF Ard Fheis in the RDS this evening.
Taoiseach speaking to the media at the FF Ard Fheis in the RDS this evening.
Image: Sam Boal

TAOISEACH MICHEÁL MARTIN has denied that the Government’s Housing for All plan is not fit for purpose. 

Speaking to reporters this evening ahead ahead of the opening of Fianna Fáil’s 80th Ard Fheis, the Taoiseach said he has full confidence in Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien, indicating that he would not be moved out of the position after the December reshuffle.

The minister is working “flat out”, said Martin. When asked if he would be moved out of the position he replied: “No, not at all.”

His comments have caused some consternation within the Fine Gael party as to how the Taoiseach could make such a comment when no reshuffle conversations have taken place.

Homeless figures

The Taoiseach’s comments come as new figures released this evening show that the number of homeless people in Ireland has hit a record high, with over 10,800 people accessing emergency accommodation last month.

The latest figures from the Department of Housing show that there were 10,805 people accessing emergency accommodation in the last week of August, surpassing the previous record of July

In July, a total of 10,568 people were accessing emergency accommodation. 

August is the eighth consecutive month where the number of people accessing emergency accommodation has risen. In total, there were 7,585 adults who accessed emergency accommodation in the last week of August. There were also 3,220 children recorded as accessing emergency accommodation.

When asked about the record high numbers at the RDS, the Taoiseach said: 

“I would challenge anybody, any other political party for that matter – what’s the alternative that they’re producing? I’ve seen nothing of any substance from any political party outside of government in this country in relation to housing.

“I’ve seen slogans, I have seen soundbites, but I haven’t seen substance. I haven’t seen real breadth of initiatives, that Darragh O’Brien has taken to be fair to him, in respect of affordable housing, in respect of social housing.

“We will build a record number of social houses this year, we’re beginning a new era of social housing at scale.”

Martin said the Government is going trigger emergency accommodation, stating that local councils have the capacity to acquire premises and to lease additional properties if necessary.

He said of there are “thousands of people exiting homelessness every year”, stating that what we are are seeing are new presentations. He also said there are additional people arriving into Ireland. 

“I’m saying that’s a factor in this. It’s not the only factor. Of course, there are other factors as well in terms of supply, and in terms of the need to get more houses built as fast as we possibly can,” he said.

The Taoiseach said the Government will deliver 25,000 houses by the end of the year, but added “we need to be doing more than that”.

Defending Housing for All

Robustly defending the Housing for All plan, the Taoiseach said the policy document is the only substantive one.

“It is the only detailed, comprehensive strategy for housing in this country,” he said.

When asked why the Government chose not to give small landlords tax breaks in this week’s budget, he said a variety of measures were considered “to try and incentivise landlords to stay in the market. There are unintended consequences, in terms of some of the policies that we were considering”. 

The Taoiseach also said that during the pandemic a constitutional bar was met to impose an eviction ban, but that is not the case now. 

“We’ve just spoken about incentivisation for landlords, there’s a balance to be struck here,” he said.

“We don’t want to reduce the supply of tenancies any further either. So that’s the balance,” he added. 

“I would appeal to everybody when it comes to apartment blocks being built, when it comes to new housing being built, be very cautious before you start objecting, because there are people out there who need these houses, and who need them quickly,” said the Taoiseach.

He said he would not be using his speech tomorrow evening to apologise to the Irish people for housing crisis, stating that “it’s going to take time, but we will get through it and we will deliver”.

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