Barry Cowen ‘fed up’ with criticism of FF administration
Fianna Fáil TD tells Fine Gael and Labour to stop rehashing arguments from last election
Barry Cowen said the Government’s mantra was: “Oh, it’s all your fault and what we’ve inherited and what we did and what we did not do.” Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times
A Fianna Fáil TD has lashed out at the Government’s persistent criticism of his party’s time in office to defend its own policies.
Environment spokesman Barry Cowen said he was “fed up” listening to the Government’s “old mantra . . . ‘Oh, it’s all your fault and what we’ve inherited and what we did and what we did not do.’”
He said it was time to stop rehashing the arguments from before the last election. Fine Gael and Labour “had a lofty policy document on entering Government about a housing strategy. Well it’s time to put flesh on the bones.”
He said: “You’ve a responsibility. Live up to it.”
Mr Cowen was speaking as the Dáil debated social housing policy and homelessness.
In an emotional outburst, he shouted across at Minister of State for Housing Jan O’Sullivan when she interrupted him as he called on her to consider establishing a national database of rogue developers who failed to meet their planning permission criteria.
Ms O’Sullivan said: “It’s a pity we didn’t have such a database when the deputy’s party was in power.”
Raising his voice, Mr Cowen said: “Irrespective of what went before, Minister, you have a responsibility to this Dáil, to the members of this Dáil, to bring forward policy, to bring forward suggestions . . . to address the deficiencies that exist today, not yesterday, not last month or not last year.”
Ms O’Sullivan said he should remember who was responsible for what happened.
Opening the debate, Ms O’Sullivan reiterated the Government’s “firm ambition to eliminate long-term homelessness and rough sleeping by 2016”.
She said she did not underestimate the challenge of sourcing housing, given the lack of new building over the past six years, “but I am determined to examine every available option to tackle the scandal of homelessness”.
In the past two years in Dublin, “1,500 people have moved from homeless services to independent living” and this was the type of housing-led policy that should be at the heart of homelessness services.
More than €500 million would be made available this year across a range of housing programmes. “I expect that in the region of 5,000 new social housing units will be provided this year,” she said.
Sinn Féin spokesman Dessie Ellis accused the Government of reannouncing housing measures already declared “and so far undelivered”.
The latest of these was the €15 million over two years for the redevelopment of vacant housing units, he said.
Independent TD Richard Boyd Barrett said the debate was taking place three years too late as thousands of families had paid the price of Government failure to urgently address this serious issue.