Sinn Féin and Ministers get on first names basis (and not in a good way) as housing tensions sizzle

Your essential end-of-week politics catch up as Ireland’s response to Gaza goes on a global stage

Politics Fix

Story of the Week

The story of the week, without doubt, was the Government’s decision to recognise the state of Palestine.

Word went around political circles on Tuesday evening that the move would be made first thing the following morning. In the end, after much co-ordination and lobbying behind-the-scenes, Ireland came together with Spain and Norway to make the announcement in the hope of speeding up efforts to secure a ceasefire.

No major decision is ever without its detractors, but Ministers have privately reported experiencing something extremely rare: praise and support from voters across the political spectrum. Israel and its supporters were quick to criticise the decision. Israel’s minister of foreign affairs Israel Katz put up a post on X claiming it was a reward for Hamas. The post was accompanied by a video edited to show the Irish flag, Irish dancers and Hamas fighters with traditional Irish music playing over it.

Soon after, the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned the ambassadors of Ireland, Spain and Norway for a reprimand conversation, the format of which was later described by Tánaiste Micheál Martin as “inappropriate and wrong”.


There can be little doubt that this was a week which put Ireland’s response to the conflict on the global stage. If other European countries do the same, with some indicating that they may, Israel will become increasingly isolated, and Ireland will have played a role in that.


With only two weeks to go until the local and European elections, it will come as no surprise that the biggest bust-ups in the Dáil this week revolved around the issue of housing. First, we had Taoiseach Simon Harris brandishing charts and waving around Sinn Féin press releases as the parties duked it out over promises made and promises broken.

The shouting continued on Thursday when Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien went head to head with Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty, with both men getting onto a first name basis (and not in a good way).

Doherty wanted to know about Fianna Fáil’s 2020 election manifesto promise to build 50,000 affordable homes for purchase costing below €250,000.

“Where the hell is the 50,000 homes, Darragh that you promised would be delivered if you were in Government?”

O’Brien responded: “Now that we’re on first name terms, Pearse, I will come back to you on that. I will debate you up and down, left, right and centre on housing.”

Such sizzling tension.

Away from the Dáil chamber, tempers continued to flare among the three Fianna Fáil candidates in Midlands North West.

In a press release on Thursday, Fianna Fáil Senator and MEP candidate Niall Blaney told of his “emerging difficulties” with the party leadership.

“We are not some sort of bolt-on, a Division 2 region only good for second preference votes to support a candidate favoured by the Fianna Fáil leadership in far-off Dublin. If the leader wishes to do a canvass for one candidate, he must do it for all three and he must respect the wishes of the electorate.”

That’s you told, Micheál Martin.

The most recent Irish Times Ipsos poll had Blaney’s party rivals Barry Cowen at 10 per cent and Lisa Chambers at 9 per cent. Mr Blaney was polling at 4 per cent.

This isn’t the last you’ll hear about this..

That’s very well but does any of this affect me?

Party rivalries are nothing new - especially when there are three candidates on the one ticket and a finite amount of resources to go around - but the voters of Midlands North West may find the spat off-putting. Or maybe they’re loving it. The housing issue, however, and the perception of which party is winning that debate, matters very much. Which brings us to our next topic.

Banana Skin

A report from the Housing Commission this week suggested that there is an underlying housing deficit in Ireland of up to 256,000 homes. The report says these issues along with external influences “contribute to volatility in supply, undermining affordability in the system” and if they are not addressed there will “continue to be insufficient progress on the issues our society faces”. Expect this report to be cited over and over again by an Opposition that smells blood ahead of the mother of all general election battles, whenever that may be.

Winners and Losers

Taoiseach Simon Harris has had a good few days. Buoyed by recent polling, he seems to have changed tack in his approach to Sinn Féin in the Dáil, switching from mollifying the Opposition to mauling them at a million miles a minute, although that goes both ways. Alongside Tánaiste Micheál Martin and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan, his face was also beamed out across Europe with plenty of coverage for Ireland’s decision to recognise the state of Palestine.

A media blitz culminated in him giving a message to the Israeli public via CNN, where he said that Ireland acknowledges Israel’s right to peace and security but also that “the IRA was never the people of Ireland and Hamas is not the people of Palestine”.

Big Read

Harry McGee takes a deeper look at that Housing Commission report, examining which parts of it will fly and which parts will not. Jack Horgan-Jones will have a long read with behind the scenes detail on how the Government came to recognise the state of Palestine.

Hear Here

From elections here to across the Atlantic, in this week’s Inside Politics podcast, Hugh Linehan spoke to the US head of polling at Ipsos, Cliff Young, and put it to him that polling showed, if the election was held today, Trump would win,:

Yes, Biden is not in a good place…. the primary reason for that is inflation.

—  Cliff Young