Eoghan Murphy criticised by Fine Gael colleague at party meeting
Bernard Durkan said housing issues would pose a problem in the general election
Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy was heavily criticised by one of his own backbench TDs at a private meeting less than a day after he survived a Dáil motion of no confidence.
Mr Durkan is also understood to have claimed at the weekly meeting of the Fine Gael parliamentary party that he gave Mr Murphy some suggestions on how to tackle the housing and homelessness crisis at the party’s Galway 2018 think-in, but these were not acted upon.
Mr Murphy did not respond to Mr Durkan’s lengthy contribution. His decision not to respond was said by sources to be “unusual”.
Those present were also surprised by the intervention, with one source saying of Mr Durkan’s criticisms: “He said it wasn’t personal, but it was personal.”
Numerous sources expressed frustration at Mr Durkan’s intervention.
“He said he didn’t want to single out any Ministers, and then he singles out Murphy and Harris,” another source said.
Another source said: “Everyone in the room was supportive of Eoghan Murphy and it was not quite clear what points Deputy Durkan was trying to make.”
When contacted by The Irish Times, Mr Durkan said he was offering to help but that some of the difficulties in housing and health were “unacceptable and shouldn’t happen”.
Mr Durkan also criticised his colleagues for not sticking up for Maria Bailey when she was in difficulty, and he was supported in this by TD Marcella Corcoran Kennedy and Senator Gabrielle McFadden. The Dún Laoghaire TD was last month deselected from the general election ticket.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar also told TDs and Senators to stop briefing the media on an off-the-record basis, but to instead speak to journalists on an on-the-record basis. Those present said Mr Varadkar said this meant the message could be controlled and be kept positive.
Fallout continued from the failed motion of no confidence in Mr Murphy, which the Government won by 56-53 on Tuesday night with the support of three Opposition Independent TDs: Noel Grealish, Michael Lowry and Denis Naughten.
Mr Naughten said the price of his support was an amendment to Fair Deal legislation to benefit families struggling to pay nursing home bills.
The Roscommon-Galway TD said the amendment could also make a real difference to families in emergency accommodation.
Mr Naughten said only 600 houses were being rented out by older people in long-term nursing home care in the State, and 10,000 were vacant because families were being “taxed on the treble”.
The former Fine Gael TD and minister said that currently under the Fair Deal scheme 7.5 per cent of the market value of a house was part of the payment. If the home was rented out then the gross income was also taxed, and when the rent money goes into their account it was taxed again at 7.5 per cent as cash on deposit.
Under his proposal the tax will be on the capital asset or on the rental income but not both. He added that if only one in five of those 10,000 vacant homes were rented out “that’s enough to house all the homeless families”.
The Taoiseach earlier told the Dáil that no promises were made to Independent TDs.
“I confirm that no promises were made to Independent Deputies in return for votes on the confidence motion, and there is nothing to publish.”
But he added: “However, Independent Deputies and plenty of Opposition Deputies are in touch with Ministers all the time looking for help on issues, and we try to help them as best we can.”
A spokesman for Mr Murphy said: “Denis contacted the Minister in relation to Fair Deal on Friday, and the Minister provided an update on an amendment on which work is ongoing which he hopes to bring in the new year.”