Minister ‘frustrated’ at Ryanair’s bulk-purchase of homes at north Dublin estate

Darragh O’Brien says 500 people a week are drawing down loans for their first homes

Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien said he was “frustrated” to see Ryanair buying up most of the homes in a new estate close to Dublin Airport, which the airline planned to rent to crew.

However, he said the development predated changes in the planning laws that would no longer facilitate such a purchase.

Mr O’Brien was asked on Monday about Ryanair’s decision to buy “25 new-built units in Fosterstown, Swords” to provide affordable rents for new cabin crew.

While he said he was frustrated by the purchase, the Minister said it represented only 25 homes of thousands being built in Swords, or about 1 per cent of overall property transactions.


The planning law was changed in May 2021, when a stamp duty charge of 10 per cent on the multiple purchase of 10 or more residential houses was imposed. However, this does not apply to developments which got planning permission before this date.

Mr O’Brien was speaking to reporters at the launch of a scheme of 72 cost-rental homes in Kilternan, Co Dublin.

Some 500 people a week were now drawing down mortgages for their first homes using Government schemes such as the First Home Scheme and the Help to Buy Scheme, the Minister said.

This represented the highest figures since 2006, the year that saw a record in the numbers of new housing loans in Ireland, he added. A total of 55,737 mortgages were granted for new houses that year, which was regarded as the peak of the Celtic Tiger.

Defending his record as Minister, Mr O’Brien said 100,000 new homes had been built since he took over the portfolio in July 2020 and the Government had delivered the highest number of social homes annually since 1975. He said he was acutely aware that more than 13,300 people were in emergency accommodation and addressing that issue was his “number one priority”.

“There is good momentum and there is good progress. There are still challenges. I am acutely aware particularly of those who do not have a home at all.”

With the Coalition now entering its final year, Mr O’Brien was asked if he would be able to stand over his promise of delivering enough homes to end the housing crisis. He responded that 2024 would be a very big year for delivery and providing affordable housing to people for the first time in a generation.

“I’ll stand over the delivery that we put forward; we are going to put in a big year this year. There remains a number one issue and a priority for me, and that’s those who don’t have a home at all.

“That’s why we need to ensure that we’re building more so we’re exiting more people from homelessness into permanent secure homes.”

Referencing the Government’s key policy, Housing for All, he said: There’s never been a housing plan like it. There’s never been an investment and intervention by any government like it in the history of the State. This year, we will invest €5.1 billion on behalf of the citizens in housing and in housing schemes.

“Everywhere around the country, in our towns and villages, we are seeing new houses being built,” he said.

Housing is likely to be a key issue in the June elections, local and European elections, and in the general election when it takes place. It has been a central policy for the main Opposition party Sinn Féin, and its housing spokesman Eoin Ó Broin, which has claimed the Government and the Minister have failed to solve the housing crisis. For his part, Mr O’Brien claimed Mr Ó Broin continued to oppose Government measures without drafting an alternative housing plan of its own.

He said Mr Ó Broin had promised to bring forward a housing plan in January 2023 but it had not materialised.

“Look at those who continue to object like the main Opposition party and continually object to housing right the way across the country... All I see from [Sinn Féin] is them being against, against, against... What’s replacing them? Nothing. Just silence.”

A spokeswoman for Mr O’Brien later confirmed that the Housing Agency was concluding a report with a recommendation that Sligo County Council be included in the Mica redress scheme. The department is also working through the process with three additional local authorities: Carlow, Wexford and Fingal.

The cost-rental scheme at Kilternan Wood includes 72 homes, comprising 63 two-bed and nine three-bed apartments. It was developed in collaboration between Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council and the Tuath housing agency.

The A-rated homes have been offered for rent at 30 per cent below the market rates, at €1,425 for a two bed and €1,550 for a three bed. The comparable market rates in the Kilternan area are €2,400 per month and €3,200 per month respectively.

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Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times