Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty has launched a blistering attack on the Government for failing to adequately address the housing crisis, describing it as “the biggest failure in policymaking and the greatest threat to living standards”.
He also promised that if Sinn Féin form the next government, it would deliver “the largest public housing programme in the history of the State”.
In a keynote address to the annual meeting of the Dublin Economic Workshop (DEW) in Wexford, the first by a senior Sinn Féin figure in seven years, Mr Doherty said that under Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, the issue of housing had “become a social disaster”.
He also claimed the current crisis did not happen by accident but stemmed from the Government’s decision “to outsource the provision of housing to the private sector”.
“That model has failed with disastrous consequences,” the party’s deputy leader and finance spokesman said.
“The truth is that Government policies caused this housing crisis. That also means that Government policies can resolve it,” Mr Doherty said.
The State’s over-reliance on the private sector created an affordability gap, he said, as the private sector was “clearly struggling to deliver homes that are affordable for workers and families”.
He also questioned whether with the cost of finance increasing, the private sector could deliver the supply of new homes required.
“That is why Sinn Féin in Government would significantly increase funding to deliver the largest public housing programme in the history of the State,” Mr Doherty said.
With Sinn Féin currently enjoying a 10-12 point lead in the polls over both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, the party is on course to play a leading role in the formation of the next government.
In his address, Mr Doherty said Sinn Féin had not moved to the centre, but “the centre has moved decisively towards Sinn Féin”. He also claimed his party in office would “tax fairly and spend wisely”.
The significant budgetary surpluses flowing into the exchequer for corporation tax presented a unique opportunity “to correct the mistakes of previous governments” and “address critical deficits in housing, childcare, health and climate action”, he said.
However, he acknowledged the risks around corporation tax “with [a] significant portion coming from a small number of foreign-owned multinationals”.
“For this reason, it is my view and Sinn Féin’s position that day-to-day current expenditure should not be funded through potentially windfall revenues,” he said.
Despite strong growth numbers, Mr Doherty insisted there was a growing disconnect between the economic indicators that are published and celebrated and “the lived experience of people”.
He also highlighted “unaffordable or inaccessible childcare” as a block on many entering the workforce.