The Regional Independent Group (RIG) has cautioned the Government that it requires an undertaking not to “merely accept” its proposals but to “have them implemented” in relation to its countermotion on the eviction ban.
Independent TD Verona Murphy has told the Dáil that the group awaits further clarity on the “immediacy of the Government’s actions before committing to support the motion”.
The Wexford TD was speaking on Tuesday evening, as Sinn Féin put forward a motion in the Dáil seeking to extend the eviction ban until January 2024. TDs will vote on the Government’s countermotion on Wednesday night.
There were sharp exchanges during the debate, with Sinn Féin deputy leader Pearse Doherty calling Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien “the minister for homelessness” while his party colleague Eoin Ó Broin called on the Minister to “get your head out of the sand”.
Buying homes of tenants whose rent is subsidised by State would cost ‘many billions’, Dáil committee told
No Green Party TDs addressed the debate.
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Ms Murphy said the Regional Independent Group had put forward eight proposals in an amendment to the Government’s countermotion in order to be “constructive”. She said the proposals were designed to keep small landlords in the market, through the provision of tax relief as well as introducing provisions to make existing planning permissions viable and the extension of the rent-a-room scheme and amending the Croí Cónaithe scheme.
“Government indicated earlier that they will accept those amendments, although it’s not entirely clear from the amendments published this evening that this is the case,” Ms Murphy said. “We will need to engage further with the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Housing on the amendment that they propose for their motion reflecting the regional group’s requirements.”
The Independent TD added that the group welcomed the “epiphany” that the Government had in accepting the “significant amendments” proposed by them.
“I would caution Government that we require an undertaking not to merely accept our amendment but to have them implemented,” she added. “Fudging language in motions such as these will not give our constituents homes.”
Mr Ó Broin, Sinn Féin’s housing spokesman, said the State was going to see levels of homelessness that “nobody ever thought was possible”.
The Dublin Mid-West TD said some local authorities were at capacity in terms of emergency accommodation available and that people would be “forced to sleep rough” and families with children would be referred to Garda stations for a safe place to sleep.
He described the Government’s proposals aimed at providing a safety net for those who would receive notices to quit in the coming months as hastily cobbled together and less convincing than measures announced by the Coalition two weeks ago.
Mr Ó Broin added that what people would associate with “the name Darragh O’Brien” was “the Minister who deliberately increased homelessness of single people, adults and pensioners”.
[ Government countermotion on eviction ban aimed at securing Independent backing ]
Sinn Féin TD Paul Donnelly said a woman had told him that she had gone to Fingal County Council offices last week and was told to go to the local Garda station.
“Another mother I spoke to yesterday is absolutely distraught at the prospect of going into homelessness in the coming weeks and she said that she is planning to sleep in her car so they can remain close to her home area and the schools and community supports for their three children, especially with a child with autism,” the Dublin West TD said.
His party colleague, Cork North-Central TD Thomas Gould, spoke of a mother going through chemotherapy treatment who was about to be evicted and that the ending of the eviction ban was a “betrayal of ordinary, vulnerable people”.
Mr O’Brien said the Government’s decision to end the eviction ban was “not one that we took lightly” but believed it was correct.
Mr O’Brien said extending the moratorium would not increase housing supply and that the Sinn Féin proposal would only serve to “shrink the number of homes available to rent”.
The Dublin Fingal TD said if the ban was extended until January 2024, there would be “a hard cliff edge of evictions in the weeks after Christmas” adding that the Opposition was “more interested in politicising the housing crisis rather than putting forward pragmatic solutions”.
The Minister also accused Mr Ó Broin of spreading “misinformation” regarding the tenant in situ scheme and that he was continuing to cite Dublin City Council as having purchased only seven homes under the plan despite the local authority saying they are examining a further 382 for purchase currently.
“You’re either confused or you’re happy to mislead, and I believe it’s the latter,” Mr O’Brien told the Sinn Féin TD.
Labour leader Ivana Bacik said her party had been left with no choice but to put forward a motion of no confidence in the Government next week unless there was a reversal of its decision to end the eviction ban.
Social Democrats TD Cian O’Callaghan said Green TDs should “show some backbone” on the issue and that he didn’t believe that when any of them stood for election “they were running on the basis of when homelessness is at record levels they would be supporting measures that would increase that even further”.