Former FG TD votes against his old party on housing motion
Peter Fitzpatrick joins Opposition in defeat of Government on motion by Solidarity-PBP
Peter Fitzpatrick: In his first vote against Fine Gael since he announced his resignation from the party earlier this week, the Louth TD joined almost the entire Opposition to defeat the Government by 83 to 43 votes.
Former Fine Gael TD Peter Fitzpatrick has voted against the Government, which was overwhelmingly defeated after a Dáil debate on the housing crisis.
In his first vote against Fine Gael since he announced his resignation from the party earlier this week, the Louth TD joined almost the entire Opposition to defeat the Government by 83 to 43 votes on Thursday.
The defeat on the Solidarity-People Before Profit housing motion may be an embarrassment for the Government, but it is not obliged based on the result to act on the proposals.
The minority Coalition Government of Fine Gael, the Independent Alliance members and two Independent Ministers has already lost some 60 votes on Private Members’ motions.
The motion calls on the Government to increase spending to €2.3 billion on social and affordable housing, to introduce legislation making it illegal for landlords, banks and investment funds to evict tenants and homeowners in mortgage distress, and to hold a referendum to enshrine a right to housing in the Constitution.
The vote follows some rowdy scenes, with heckling and barracking, in the Dáil as Sinn Féin deputy leader Pearse Doherty again hit out at the Government’s housing policy.
He said the message of the cross-society protesters at the Raise the Roof demonstration outside Leinster House “is that your housing policies are failing and that they want real and meaningful solutions”.
He said a third of households were paying more than 30 per cent of their income on rent, a level deemed unaffordable. He added that 70 per cent of modest-income households were spending more than 30 per cent.
The Donegal TD repeated Sinn Féin’s call to “give renters a break in next week’s budget” by introducing a temporary tax relief for them and by freezing rents for three years.
Tánaiste Simon Coveney, answering for the Government, said he fully understood the frustration of the people on the march and it was a very pressurised situation.
But he said the Government’s main domestic priority was housing and that it produced 8,000 social housing units this year, which Sinn Féin disputed and said was 5,500. Mr Coveney said the figure included older stock brought back into use.
He insisted that money was not the main obstacle to delivering the volume of houses needed. “Processes and decision-making have delayed the pace of delivery of social housing.”
But when he said the delays were to do with the “capacity of local authorities to deliver at the pace at which we are asking them to deliver”, he was heckled by Sinn Féin TDs.
“You shouldn’t put the blame back onto the councils,” said Sinn Féin’s Eoin Ó Broin.
Mr Doherty claimed the Government was “abdicating responsibility”.
Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl intervened and warned Sinn Féin not to barrack the Minister.
He said it was becoming a habit that “some on the Sinn Féin benches are barracking the Ministers when they are responding”.