Minister for Housing survives no-confidence vote

Sinn Féin motion of no confidence in Eoghan Murphy defeated 59 votes to 49

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Tánaiste Simon Coveney are pictured with  Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy (centre) during a motion of confidence in the Dáil on Mr Murphy on Tuesday. Image: Oireachtas screengrab.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Tánaiste Simon Coveney are pictured with Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy (centre) during a motion of confidence in the Dáil on Mr Murphy on Tuesday. Image: Oireachtas screengrab.

 

Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy comfortably survived a Sinn Féin motion of no confidence in him by 59 votes to 49 after Fianna Fail abstained.

All Fine Gael TDS supported the Minister, as did independent alliance and independent ministers. Independent back benchers.

Seán Canney and Michael Lowry also supported the government. Michael Harty abstained.

Much of the focus ahead of the vote had been on his Fine Gael colleague, Catherine Byrne, who had been told she would lose her role as Minister of State at the Department of Health if she voted against Mr Murphy.

However, Ms Byrne issued a statement ahead of the debate saying she would now be backing the Minister having had “positive and constructive discussions” with him and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

Ms Byrne and Mr Murphy have publicly clashed over plans for the State’s first “cost-rental” housing estate in the Dublin suburb of Inchicore, which is in Ms Byrne’s constituency.

“Over the days and weeks ahead I will continue to work constructively with all of my colleagues on the issues I have raised relating to housing and community development,” Ms Byrne said in her statement.

During the debate, Mr Murphy told the Dáil that he would not be driven out of office by “personalised slurs against me”.

The Sinn Féin motion of no confidence in Mr Murphy criticised his handling of the housing crisis but he said he was “responsible for fixing this crisis piece by piece”.

Flanked by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, eight Cabinet colleagues, a number of ministers of state as well as a large number of backbenchers, Mr Murphy said: “I won't be distracted by populist nonsense and I won't be hounded out of office”.

“I will not be responsible for damning another generation by populist short term solutions,” he said.

Mr Murphy insisted in the debate that “more new homes have been provided this year, than in any year in the past decade”. He said the crisis was a decade in the making and he came into office 16 months ago.

Opening the debate, Sinn Féin housing spokesman Eoin Ó Broin said “Eoghan Murphy is an obstacle to addressing the housing crisis”.

He said the Government’s Rebuilding Ireland programme was “fundamentally flawed; it is failing; it is making the problem worse”.

“The fact that Eoghan Murphy cannot see the problem in front of him” showed it was time for him to go, Mr Ó Broin said.

‘Buck stops’

He said that as Minister, the “buck stops with” Mr Murphy, who he described as “an obstacle to addressing the real causes of this problem”.

Mr Ó Broin said the housing crisis would not be solved overnight but “Fine Gael have been in Government for seven long years”.

The Dublin Mid-West TD said his party had produced a raft of policies and legislation to address the situation. Fianna Fáil has lined up time after time to support the Government and if Fine Gael will not listen to Sinn Féin “then they will have to listen to the people”.

Party leader Mary Lou McDonald said the Taoiseach must relieve Mr Murphy of his portfolio.

“The housing crisis is dire but there are solutions. Solving it may present one of the biggest challenges to a government or a minister but it is not impossible,” she said.

Ms McDonald said no one “expects a Minister to perform miracles, but in the midst of a crisis what people do expect and deserve is vision and leadership”.

She insisted “it’s not about playing the man or playing the Minister. It is about holding the Government and the Minister to account”.

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe staunchly defended his colleague and expressed “full confidence” in him.

He described Sinn Féin’s view as a “repugnant attitude” and said that no party in Dáil Éireann had a monopoly on compassion.

‘Complex issue’

Mr Donohoe said Mr Murphy “has steadily addressed a serious complex issue”. Under his leadership “we have seen him realising a plan that can and is delivering”, he added.

Mr Donohoe said “we will make progress step by step, week by week” as opposed to using the public’s anxieties for their own gain.

Minister for Health Simon Harris described the Sinn Féin motion as the “worst type of politics that nasty type of politics that saw the rise of Trump”.

Fianna Fáil housing spokesman Darragh O’Brien said that “should the Dáil bring down the Government this would be a deeply irresponsible action, weeks before the budget”.

Repeatedly heckled by Sinn Féin, Mr O’Brien said: “Fianna Fail believed in responsible politics. Now is not the time for causing a general election.”