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Dublin: 13 °C Thursday 18 July, 2019
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The Taoiseach faced down questions about homelessness, housing, and whether the minister and department of justice was aware of the legal strategy that was to be used against Maurice McCabe.

Micheál Martin raises the issues the failure of the government to build social housing.

A report in The Irish Times today says there were just over 1,000 social houses built in the last year, pointing out that some council houses have built none.

He wants the Taoiseach to admit that this attitude is embedded in his government.

Leo Varadkar said no one in this House is in denial about the human impact the housing crisis is having on people, referencing that young people aren’t able to afford their own home and the overcrowding issue.

He says he doesn’t want to get into exchange of statistics, stating that the housing department has other figures that show that 2,000 new council homes will be built in 2017 – direct build – and 3,300 next year.

He says there is no obstruction in building in social housing by this government.

Martin says the numbers the Taoiseach references are not going to make any difference.

He says one of his constituents is living in a hotel for ten years – adding that the response to the crisis is not on par with what is needed.

Martin says the councils need to be buying houses from the private market and there needs to be “a far more sense of urgency” he adds.

During times of recession, the government were able to build far more.

He says the responses is a “damning indictment” on this government, stating that progress is being made at a “snail’s pace”.

Taoiseach responds by taking a dig at Fianna Fáil and harking back to the 90s when he says 80,000 homes were being built in one year.

“And we know how that ended, it ended in a property bubble… that was very much a consequence of your government,” he tells Martin.

He says progress is being made, but the problem won’t be solved overnight.

Gerry Adams is also raising the issue of housing.

Adams said the Taoiseach’s Ard Fheis speech last weekend and recent comments made about homelessness were only directed at those he thinks will vote for him in the next election.

The Sinn Féin leader should be focusing on how he uses his power and how he serves the people.

Homelessness should be more important than maneuvering his party for the next election.

Your PR narrative has been picked up by others, says Adams.

The Sinn Féin leader asks the Taoiseach to consider his remarks and not to hit back at him in some “glib” way.

Varadkar does just that.

He says it is good to see Adams is in the House today stating that he took the day off yesterday to practice his Ard Fheis speech – something he says he is rehearsing here today.

He also highlights that Adams was in the US fundraising for Sinn Féin – something  he says he will come back to.

Varadkar begins listing some of FG Budget announcements, such as fast-track planning permissions, reducing cost of building housing, rent measures.

This isn’t a problem that is going to be solved overnight.

It will take time for us to get on top of this but it doesn’t diminish our determination to solve this, he says.

Our party believes people have rights. He says that the Taoiseach says people don’t deserve things for free and says that is a line straight out of right-wing Thatcherism

Adams says instead of being a Taoiseach for the elites, can he not become a Taoiseach for the homeless?

The Taoiseach hits back and says Sinn Fein exploits peoples’ misery for votes.

Brendan Howlin is raising the issue of what the Department of Justice knew about the legal strategy of the Garda Commissioner against Maurice McCabe.

He wants to know if he spoke to the Secretary General of Dept of Justice. Taoiseach says he has not.

The Ceann Comhairle says questions like these are in standing orders that matter should not be raised if it encroaches on a tribunal’s work.

I haven’t spoken directly to Sec Gen of Dept of Justice, says the Taoiseach.

He reiterates what he said yesterday, that the Tanaiste had ‘no hand, act or part” in the strategy.

She had no prior knowledge of it, he says.

He says the Dept Justice was only told about it after the cross examination had taken place.

Therefore he says they weren’t in position to express any reservations.

Taoiseach says he has seen articles in the paper, parliamentary questions have been put down and there have been a lot of briefings.

This issue has been going back and forth for a couple of days. I have seen newspaper articles on it. Letters have been exchanged. Parliamentary questions have been asked and answered.
A lot of briefings have been going around to the effect that there is some explosive allegation here. I heard one briefing suggesting an allegation so explosive that it might bring down the Government. At this stage, if the Labour Party has an allegation to make, it should make it clearly here so we can respond to it.

Varadkar says they should either make those allegations here in the House, if they are so sure about them, or if not, bring it to the tribunal.

There is a bit of uproar here, as Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan jumps up and says he will not have his “good name” dragged through the House by Deputy Alan Kelly.

He asks the Ceann Comhairle for protection in the House and tells Kelly to desist from engaging in “a smear campaign against me”.

The Taoiseach says he can’t put his hand on his heart and says that “someone was not told about it [the legal strategy]. He says departments are big places, they are not individual people. “I can’t give you that answer,” he tells Brendan Howlin.

Howlin says he is not making any accusations against anyone, but he says it is their job to ask questions of the government about such matters.

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