Varadkar rejects Sinn Féin rent-freeze proposal

Taoiseach also says no plan in place to ban photos or videos being taken of garda members

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar addresses the Dáil on Tuesday.  Image: Oireachtas TV

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar addresses the Dáil on Tuesday. Image: Oireachtas TV

 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has rejected a Sinn Féin proposal to freeze rents as “tinkering around the edges” of the housing crisis.

He said that “to every complex issue there is a reasonable and simple solution that doesn’t work and a rent freeze is probably one of those”.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said that “bold and urgent action” was required and she proposed the introduction of a temporary tax relief for renters alongside a three-year emergency rent freeze.

She insisted however that a rent freeze was not tinkering around the edges but she was asking the Taoiseach to “take decisive action”.

She said it would be a partial response to the crisis because “spin over substance was the hallmark of Government policy”.

Ms McDonald also criticised what she called the “absolutely disproportionate” response to a peaceful occupation of an unoccupied house in Dublin city centre, by a security company accompanied by gardaí.

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett also condemned the response to the occupation of the house in North Frederick Street and said that a number of protesters had been hospitalised because of the response “of the violence of hooded gardaí and security men”.

Photographs

He called on the Taoiseach to reject comments by Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan, who had voiced support for a proposal on the photographing of gardaí being banned. The proposal came in the wake of the abuse a garda received on social media over his role in the events that led to the North Frederick Street occupation being ended.

Mr Boyd Barrett said there should be no ban on photographing or videoing members of the force.

Mr Varadkar said the Government had no such plans but that all protests must be peaceful, gardaí must be respected and protesters must obey the law.

He said that those supporting protests and occupations should “make this clear to people involved”.

The Taoiseach told Ms McDonald that local authorities had the power to seek compulsory purchase orders and if they did not do so with a particular property he assumed there was a reason for it.

Mr Varadkar added that Sinn Féin and left-wing councillors dominated Dublin City Council and they should seek such orders. He also said they should not vote down social housing.

“If you really want this housing tell your own councillors not to vote down housing schemes for any reason,” he said to Mr Boyd Barrett.

The Taoiseach also said the Government was doing everything it could to ramp-up housing supply and that Ms McDonald’s proposed rent freeze would have a number of unintended consequences.

He said such a freeze may have an impact on supply.

“Will people be willing to rent out a property?”