Taoiseach says apology from Fr Peter McVerry over eviction ban claim ‘unnecessary’

Campaigner said he was given inaccurate information about Varadkar overruling Minister on extending moratorium

Fr McVerry had made the claim during a radio interview on Monday and subsequently apologised on Wednesday. Illustration: Paul Scott

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said he is “happy there’s been a clarification” from Fr Peter McVerry about his claim that he overruled the Minister for Housing’s wish to extend the eviction ban, but that it was not necessary for the homelessness campaigner to issue an apology.

Mr Varadkar said his office contacted the Peter McVerry Trust on Tuesday “to set out the facts as they happened and that’s all really” after the Jesuit priest made the allegation during a radio interview on Monday.

Fr McVerry said his understanding was that Darragh O’Brien had wanted to extend the ban, and was acting in preparation for same, only to be “overridden by the Taoiseach”.

“And that is why the was no preparation made during the five-month ban for mitigating the effects of ending this ban,” he told Southeast Radio.


Fr McVerry issued an apology on Wednesday, saying the information he had received about the matter was incorrect.

‘Good faith’

Asked about the matter on Wednesday evening, the Taoiseach said: “I just want to say that no apology was necessary.

“There have been many times in the past when I’ve been given false information and in good faith I’ve believed it to be true and have used it in media and then found out it wasn’t true and I’ve had to retract on it,” he said.

“So I understand how these things can happen. Certainly, I’m not upset about it at all.”

Mr Varadkar said he has a lot of respect for Fr McVerry and the Government works in lockstep with the Peter McVerry Trust to provide social housing.

Eviction ban Q&A: What can you do if you get a termination notice?Opens in new window ]

Asked if his office sought a retraction from Fr McVerry, Mr Varadkar replied: “There was there was no apology sought and, like I say, it wasn’t necessary. We did clarify the position because what was said was not true and Fr McVerry decided to retract.”

Asked if a clarification was sought, he said: “I wasn’t involved in these conversations. The purpose of the conversation was a conversation to explain what the facts were it’s exactly what we said in public, was said in private.”

On Fr McVerry’s suggestion that ending the eviction ban at the start of the month was the worst decision taken by the Government, Mr Varadkar said “that’s his honest opinion and people are entitled to have their honest opinions”.

Move on

He said he would “prefer to move on” from the matter. “Because the thing is absolutely agree on is the need to accelerate social housing and that’s what’s going to bring down homelessness in the medium to long term. And the Peter McVerry Trust is one of our closest partners in making that happen.”

Fr McVerry had earlier said he was mistaken when he claimed that the Taoiseach had “overridden” Mr O’Brien on extending the moratorium beyond March 31st.

“In light of the Taoiseach stating that this was not the case, which I now accept as true, I now believe that the phrase was unfortunate and inaccurate,” the Jesuit priest said in a statement.

Peter McVerry’s eviction ban comment will linger on unproven yet politically aliveOpens in new window ]

Fr McVerry said his comments had proved to be a distraction from the real issues facing the country.

“Well I want to put an end to this because it is a distraction from the real issue. The real issue is where do people go when they are evicted? So this is a distraction. Governments love distractions. The phrase that I was given was inaccurate. This is a clarification and an apology to the Taoiseach.”

Mr Varadkar said there were a number of meetings about the ending of the eviction ban and he was “loath to say exactly what happened” at each because there were several.

“We didn’t have the exact numbers but we did know that there had been significant increase in notices to quit,” he said.

He said this was for two reasons - firstly a change in the way notices to quit are reported which means “they’re not comparable to previous years, previous quarters and the RTB is very clear on that.” The second, he said, was the “acceleration of landlords leaving the market” with 40,000 leaving in the past five years.

“The eviction ban was actually accelerating that,” Mr Varadkar said. “And that was one of the concerns that we had would be that if there had been an extension for another three months or six months or nine months, there would have been an even bigger number of notices to quit and an even bigger problem to solve down the line.

“So the fact that we knew that there was an increase in notices to quit was part of the rationale for the decision.”

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times