A growing number of Independent TDs have confirmed that they intend to oppose the Government in a Dáil vote on the ending of the eviction ban.
Sinn Féin is tabling a motion calling for the ban to be extended into 2024.
The Government is expected to table a counter-motion defending the decision to allow the moratorium to expire on a phased basis and setting out measures it is taking to help renters.
The Coalition currently has an official Dáil majority of just two TDs, though its working majority has been larger due to the frequent support of some Independent TDs.
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Green Party TD Neasa Hourigan has signalled her intention to vote against the Government in the Dáil vote on Wednesday, a move that is likely to see her lose the party whip.
This will increase the Government’s reliance on Independents though the Government remains confident that it will win Wednesday night’s vote.
So far five Independent TDs – Micheal Healy-Rae, Micheal Collins, Thomas Pringle, Joan Collins and Violet Anne-Wynne - have publicly confirmed they intend to vote against the Government. Others like Roscommon-Galway’s Michael Fitzmaurice are understood to be preparing to vote the same way.
Several other Independents – many of whom have backed the Coalition in previous Dáil votes - remain undecided as of Monday evening. They include members of the Regional Independent Group Denis Naughten, Seán Canney, Cathal Berry, Verona Murphy and Peter Fitzpatrick as well as Marc MacSharry, a former Fianna Fáil TD.
[ Green Party threatens tougher sanctions against Neasa Hourigan if she votes against Government ]
Mr Healy-Rae said he will be voting against the Government in the wake of Sinn Féin’s motion “in the absence of any other sensible proposal”.
The Rural Independents group, of which he is a member, will be putting forward a number of amendments, he told RTÉ Radio’s Morning Ireland.
The Government had not used the time during the eviction ban “to do anything” the Kerry TD said, adding that Sinn Féin had not done anything either and continued to “demonise” people who rented out properties. Sinn Féin needed to realise that extending the eviction ban was not a magic bullet, it was merely “kicking the can down the road”, he said.
Mr Healy-Rae, who owns a number of rental properties, said he was fearful for constituents who came to him worried where they were going to go when the eviction ban was lifted. When asked if any of his tenants would be evicted, Mr Healy-Rae, said they would not.
The Government was not doing enough to provide housing so it would continue to need the rental sector but landlords were “leaving in droves”.
Mr Healy-Rae said that the people who “shouted the loudest” in the Dáil were the same people who had objected to “thousands” of homes being built in their constituencies. “That doesn’t make sense.”
The Rural Independents group will meet on Tuesday to finalise the amendments to be tabled to the Sinn Féin motion, he said.
The Government will put down an amendment to Sinn Féin’s motion, which will likely be the vote actually taken in the Dáil. Coalition leaders will meet to discuss the wording of the counter-motion on Monday evening. A Government spokesman said it was “confident that its counter motion will be passed”.
As the Opposition seeks to maximise pressure on the Government, Sinn Féin is considering another motion on the eviction ban before it expires at the end of the month.
The Dáil is already set to debate a Sinn Féin motion on extending the ban this week. The party’s housing spokesman, Eoin Ó Broin, said it had a slot in Private Members’ time on Tuesday week and was “considering all options for that” with a decision to be made later this week.
On Sunday, the Labour Party said it would put down a motion of no confidence in the Government before the end of the month if it did not change course.
[ Martin claims Ireland has ‘turned a corner’ on housing ahead of Sinn Féin motion on eviction ban ]
Focus shifted on Monday to Independent TDs, especially those who usually support the Government. The regional group, including TDs who regularly vote with the Government such as Kildare South’s Cathal Berry and Tipperary’s Michael Lowry, is assessing its options.
“There’s a lot of the Independents undecided as to how they will vote and what they will do, and we will make a decision after we’ve finalised our amendment,” Mr Lowry said.
The Coalition dug in over the weekend, insisting its plans to introduce mitigations to offset the ending of the ban, followed by a budget-time overhaul of taxation of the rental sector, was sufficient.
Minister for Finance Michael McGrath told The Irish Times on Sunday that the Coalition was “acutely aware of the considerable challenges surrounding the rental sector”, pointing to decisions made at the last Cabinet meeting.
He said the Department of Housing was working on a review of the rental market, and his officials were preparing “a range of options for consideration” on taxing the sector, and he would “bring forward proposals for implementation as part of the budget”.