Parties huff and puff over housing crisis as election bickering begins

Meath FG TD Ray Butler made it local: ‘Fianna Fáil only built nine social houses in Trim’

Fianna Fáil’s Michael McGrath suggested they give people hope and discuss solutions. Photograph: Alan Betson

Fianna Fáil’s Michael McGrath suggested they give people hope and discuss solutions. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

The election campaign is effectively under way.It was fought out in the Dáil yesterday against the backdrop of The Irish Times opinion poll, which showed it would not make sense for the Coalition to have a November poll.

So, with a spring date looking more likely, it will be a long and bitter campaign.

Barbed comments were as plentiful as confetti at a wedding when Tánaiste and Labour leader Joan Burton took Opposition Leaders’ Questions.

Fianna Fáil’s Michael McGrath raised the housing crisis. “Up to 130,000 applicants are on social housing waiting lists and housing supply is minimal,’’ he said. “The caps in the rent supplement scheme are so out of line with market rents that they are little more than a fantasy.’’

Burton made a reference to a growing economy and pointed out that housing and homes were provided for 65,000 individuals and families through the rent supplement.

Sinn Féin’s Dessie Ellis could not contain himself. “Introduce rent controls,’’ he shouted across the chamber.

Burton then accused Sinn Féin of cynicism.“Cynicism,’’ said Ellis. “I do not think that the Tánaiste is even on the ground . . . she does not know what is happening.’’

McGrath said people wanted to hear solutions to the housing problem. “They wanted them 10 years ago but did not get them,’’ said Fine Gael’s Bernard Durkan.

Labour’s Emmet Stagg entered the fray. “Fianna Fáil privatised social housing by handing it over to the private sector,’’ he declared.

Meath Fine Gael TD Ray Butler made it local: “Fianna Fáil only built nine social houses in Trim over 14 years.’’

“I have clearly touched a nerve,’’ said McGrath. “Deputy McGrath touched no nerve but his own,’’ replied Butler.

McGrath suggested they give people hope and discuss solutions: “The situation is only going from bad to worse.’’

The exchanges were equally heated when it came to Gerry Adams’s turn to question the Tánaiste.

The Sinn Féin leader demanded that Minister for Finance Michael Noonan make a Dáil statement on the Nama controversy.

Burton asked Adams if there was anything in the Republic he regarded as being good?

Adams rose to his feet. “Yes, lots of things, but mostly the people the Government is letting down,’’ he said.

Burton said: “I suspect Deputy Adams also knows a lot about governance, including of organisations of which he was never even a member . . . but that is another issue.’’

Labour is under pressure and its leader is going for the jugular. Her opponents are replying in kind.

And it is all happening even before Enda Kenny has made the fateful journey to the Park to ask the President to dissolve the Dáil.