Coronavirus: State could acquire rental properties left in lurch by crisis, Martin says

Fianna Fáil leader updates Senators and MEPs on Covid-19 and government formation

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin: ‘Many people were hoping initially in the early days for a kind of quick bounceback but I don’t think that is going to happen to the degree that people might have thought.’ Photograph: Alan Betson

Properties that have seen tenancy agreements or short-term letting arrangements go "by the wayside" during the coronavirus crisis could be acquired by the State, the Fianna Fáil leader has said.

Micheál Martin also said the tourism and hospitality sector will need “specific, targeted” attention to help it recover after the crisis.

Mr Martin on Wednesday updated his Senators and MEPs during a teleconference on the pandemic and attempts to form a government with Fine Gael and others.

He said talks were continuing between the Civil War parties, with another meeting expected on Friday about a framework document setting out how such a government could work. It is envisaged that smaller parties would then be approached about potentially joining them.


Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have 72 seats between them, eight short of the bare majority of 80 TDs needed. Both parties are hoping that a small party and some Independents will come on board to fortify the numbers.

Mr Martin told the teleconference that such a government would work to bring the country through the crisis and rebuild the economy. It would also work on a pathway to single-tier public healthcare, a State childcare scheme and greater State involvement in house building, he said.

Mr Martin said Fianna Fáil had drawn heavily on its election manifesto in the talks but was “also looking at the opportunities that Covid-19 presents now”.

“In terms of housing, using the opportunities – we have seen how Airbnb and other tenancies have fallen by the wayside now because of the change. There [are] opportunities there for the State to get in quickly, acquire units and also to start building public housing and affordable housing on State land,” he said.

Big decisions

Mr Martin said a new government was needed because of big decisions which “may come down the track in terms of aviation and in a whole range of areas because the economic impact of Covid now is going to be huge”.

“Many people were hoping initially in the early days for a kind of quick bounceback but I don’t think that is going to happen to the degree that people might have thought,” he said.

He said economic recovery will need “significant European underpinning” and that this could come via the European Stability Mechanism or other alternatives to “enable member States to underpin the deficits”.

There are “going to be high deficits for the foreseeable future and also to deal with the unemployment that has arisen as a result of Covid-19”, he said.

Numerous contributors to the meeting said the leadership needed to engage with the wider membership and councillors as it prepares to enter government with Fine Gael.


A special Fianna Fáil ardfheis is required to ratify any programme for government but alternative arrangements may be necessary given mass gatherings have been prohibited during the pandemic.

Senator Paul Daly told the meeting that an "anti-Fine Gael coalition mob, for want of a better word, are getting traction and momentum on social media in particular". He said "there doesn't seem to be anything coming from the merits of why we will be doing what we would be doing".