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Angry Dáil exchanges over housing ahead of Cabinet meeting on Summer Economic Statement

A row between government ministers took place over the housing spend in the statement this week.

In his last Leaders' Questions before the summer recess, the Taoiseach defended his government's record on housing.
In his last Leaders' Questions before the summer recess, the Taoiseach defended his government's record on housing.
Image: Oireachtas.ie

THERE WERE ANGRY exchanges over the housing crisis in the Dáil this afternoon in the Taoiseach’s last Leaders’ Questions before the summer recess. 

Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald said Micheál Martin was “failing and failing miserably” when it comes to dealing with housing, and raised concerns about a row between government ministers over the Summer Economic Statement.

The Summer Economic Statement tells us what money we have to spend in October’s Budget, and is generally published in July each year.

The statement was due to have been approved by the Cabinet on Tuesday but was not brought forward by Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe because agreement could not be reached on the housing spend, with divisions appearing between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.

A Cabinet meeting will be held this afternoon on the statement, with details on how much the government has to spend on items such as housing, transport systems, and improved health services to be revealed.

Speaking in the Dáil, the Taoiseach defended the government’s record on housing, stating: “I get the housing crisis.”

His comments come almost a week after Fianna Fáil TD Jim O’Callaghan said that his party doesn’t understand the scale of the housing crisis.

McDonald said the reports of the in-house row in government over what the spend on housing should be in this year’s Budget is “incredible”. 

She said when in Opposition, the Taoiseach called for increased spending, but said now that Fianna Fáil is in government with Fine Gael, they have “fallen under the shadow” of Fine Gael’s “failed housing policy”.

She questioned why the finance minister is “now not content on signing off on an increase in the funding to be allocated for housing”.

The Taoiseach dismissed the remarks, stating McDonald’s “facts are wrong”.

“There is no disagreement,” he said.

Summer Economic Statement

The summer economic statement will set out the “broad fiscal framework”, said the Taoiseach who added that the government’s new Housing for All plan, due to be launched this month, will outline a “step change in terms of the construction of housing, social, affordable, right across the board in terms of what is required”.

There were heated exchanges between Martin and McDonald, when the Taoiseach said there is a “lack of sincerity at the heart” of what Sinn Fein is about when it comes to the housing problem, “because you say one thing in here, and you do something alternative when it comes to on the ground”, he added.

“You want to exploit housing for electoral gain… you don’t ever come forward with substantive clear solutions,” said Martin.

McDonald said no amount of “personalised invective, or ducking and diving and failing to answer questions” can disguise that Martin’s leadership is “failing”.

She accused him of repeatedly failing to answer questions, stating that the “hysterical manner when he is held to account” is incredible.

Social Democrat’s co-leader Catherine Murphy linking rents to inflation at a time when inflation is rising will only drive rents up. 

Renters are only certain of one thing – when their rents are rising, she said, stating that there needs to a rent freeze. 

The Taoiseach said a rent freeze is “just not doable”.

The government have got advice on a rent freeze, with Martin stating that it ”it is not constitutional”.

Murphy challenged him on that assertion, saying she doesn’t believe it is not constitutional.

Motion on lifting Covid-19 restrictions

Separately, the Rural Independents motion calling for a lifting of Covid restrictions was not opposed by government today.

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private members motion calls on the government to immediately allow for the reopening of all indoor hospitality to everyone, whether vaccinated or not. If approved, all indoor hospitality could be reopened from Thursday next.

Speaking today, TD Mattie Mc Grath welcomed the government’s position in not opposing the motion, but criticised it for also moving ahead with “draconian” legislation of only allowing vaccinated people dine indoors.

“The government’s move to introduce a special Covid passport scheme would be the first attempt at segregation in Ireland for over a century. Such a scheme would divide families, friends and communities and would do absolutely nothing to reduce the risks of Covid,” he said.

“Ireland’s common goal is to emerge from lockdown – healthy, safe and free. But we will not arrive at freedom through exclusion and segregation,” he added.

Independent TD Catherine Connolly said she was “perplexed” by the government’s approach to this motion, as they are not opposing the motion that calls for no discrimination, but in a few hours will “plough through” legislation that will do just that.

“Here we are a year and a half into this pandemic and there is total chaos from a government that is not fit to lead,” said Connolly, who said the “three unwise men” – referring to Martin, Leo Varadkar and Eamon Ryan, are failing.

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