Sinn Féin claims Fine Gael out of touch with ‘cost-of-living crisis’

Coveney accuses Doherty of attempting to start ‘class war’ after ‘posh boys and girls’ jibe

Sinn Féin deputy leader Pearse Doherty: ‘What we have are the posh boys and girls of Fine Gael developing policies for people who are struggling.’ Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Sinn Féin deputy leader Pearse Doherty: ‘What we have are the posh boys and girls of Fine Gael developing policies for people who are struggling.’ Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

Sinn Féin has accused the Government of failing to understand the difficulties of people struggling to buy or rent homes because Fine Gael “posh boys and girls” are developing housing policy.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney in turn accused Sinn Féin deputy leader Pearse Doherty of trying to start a “class war” and seeking cheap headlines.

Mr Doherty claimed the Government was out of touch and failing to meet its own “inadequate targets”.

He added that average rent across the State was now €1,300 and more than €2,000 in Dublin. “Ordinary people are facing a cost-of-living crisis.”

“The Government simply shrugs its shoulders and carries on as normal”, he said in advance of the Raise the Roof demonstration in Dublin on Saturday in protest at the housing crisis.

“What we have are the posh boys and girls of Fine Gael developing policies for people who are struggling.”

Mr Doherty added that “the reality is those of you on the Government benches will never have to struggle” because Fine Gael TDs did not understand the difficulties facing people trying to buy or rent a home.

But Mr Coveney defended his party’s efforts and said: “When you get into the space of name calling and try to get into some sort of class war debate, then quite frankly I think that’s proof that you are losing the argument.”

“People who paint a picture here of a Government that isn’t listening or plugged in don’t understand what we’re doing”. Their strategy was to “dramatically increase supply of all kind of housing”.

“The largest political party in the country speaks to all types of people.” They were “not in the business of cheap headlines or short-term fixes that will cost in the long-term”.

CSO figures released on Thursday showed the number of homes built in the first quarter of this year rose by 23.3 per cent he said, adding that 4,275 new homes were completed in the first quarter of 2019, compared with 3,470 at the end of March last year, Mr Coveney said.

The CSO figures did not lie but he acknowledged “we probably need to be building 35,000 units a year”.

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett claimed “working-class people are being socially cleansed from the city centre to make profits for the boys who are back in town”.

But the Tánaiste said “this debate descends into working-class people versus, supposedly, other classes of people” whenever Mr Boyd Barrett raised the issue.

“The Government is trying to recognise that all types of families and people from different backgrounds and incomes have housing needs.”

Homeless

Sinn Féin TD John Brady highlighted the case of a 33-year-old homeless man Chris, who died last week and had been living in a tent. He said 12 homeless beds which opened in Bray before Christmas were due to close at the end of May.

“In the same month in which Chris died in the same town, those 12 beds will be closed.”

He said Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy “has the audacity to stand up and say his plans are working”.

But Mr Murphy said he carried that responsibility with him “every day and night. When a person in emergency accommodation dies, I get that phone call.”

He said if Sinn Féin had ideas and a plan worth implementing, it would receive the support of the House because it was a minority Government and the Opposition could have their ideas implemented.

Mr Murphy was pointing out “the hypocrisy of some Deputies who claim to have all the answers but who, when they put forward their ideas, cannot win the support of any of their colleagues”.