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Criticism of Fine Gael housing record is 'ideological', says Varadkar

Varadkar was in Cork today ahead of the by-election in the city at the end of the month.

Taioseach Leo Varadkar at Farmleigh in Dublin on Friday.
Taioseach Leo Varadkar at Farmleigh in Dublin on Friday.
Image: Brian Lawless/PA Wire/PA Images

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has accused opposition parties of being ‘obsessed’ with ideology when it comes to house building. 

Varadkar made the comments in Cork as he – alongside housing minister Eoghan Murphy – turned the sod on a new housing scheme in Boherboy. 

The scheme, pitched by the government as “affordable”, will see the development of 153 homes, which will range in price from €198,000 to €223,000. The homes are expected to be ready in November 2020. 

Part of the Boherboy site will be used to build 37 apartments for social housing. 

“When it comes to housing, some commentators and parties are obsessed with the mechanism of delivery, rather than simply with delivery.  Their focus is ideological,” Varadkar said today. 

“Our focus is different, it’s not on ideology, it’s on delivery.  It is to ensure that there is a greater supply of housing.”

Varadkar’s Fine Gael-led government has repeatedly been forced to defend itself against claims that it has a an ideological opposition to building social housing.

In the Dáil this week, Varadkar insisted that rent freezes, which are backed by Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil, were not the solution to the country’s housing crisis. 

Today, Varadkar said that the country was beginning to see the results of the government’s housing strategy. 

His focus, he said, was to provide “social housing for people on the housing lists, private housing for people who want to buy because most people want to buy their own home and places available for people to rent”. 

The government has promised to deliver 2,000 new affordable homes by the end of 2020. 

The recent controversy over the redevelopment of O’Devaney Gardens in Dublin has focused scrutiny on the extent of affordable housing being built by private developers.  Developer Bartra Capital has been contracted to build 768 housing units – both apartments and houses – on the site.

However, opponents have criticised the details of the agreement, which was backed by Dublin City Council members earlier this month. 

Councillors were told that the affordable purchase price would be €310,000 and the rent on affordable rental properties is expected to be in the region of €1,300 a month. 

By-election

Varadkar was in Cork ahead of the by-election in Cork North Central at the end of the month

The seat was previously held by Fianna Fáil’s Billy Kelleher, who was elected to the European Parliament in May. 

Senator Colm Burke is contesting the by-election for Fine Gael, but he will face stiff competition from Fianna Fáil’s Padraig O’Sullivan, who is the favourite to take the seat.

“This is a good time to be living in Cork,” Varadkar said. 

He said that he backed calls for a state ceremony in the city in 2020 to commemorate the role Cork played in the War of Independence 100 years ago. 

“The winning of Irish freedom, as Terence MacSwiney so beautifully put it, was ‘a deathless dream’. Almost one hundred years on from these events, we need to ask ourselves what does this dream mean in the 21st century now that we have political freedom?” he said. 

“For me the most important is ensuring that our citizens have the economic freedom to live their lives and have opportunities to reach their potential.”

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