Paschal Donohoe confronted by Smithfield resident calling for local housing
Minister for Finance assures resident that social housing will be built after being asked ‘is that a promise?’
Local resident Geoffrey Fox speaks to Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe in Smithfiled, Dublin about his concerns about homelessness in the capital. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins
Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe has said the Government is committed to building more social housing in central Dublin after being confronted by a Smithfield resident during a press conference.
Geoffrey Fox, who has lived in a flat near Smithfield square for 16 years, cornered the Minister on Friday afternoon. Mr Donohoe was in the public meeting area area to announce that former Together for Yes campaign manager Deirdre Duffy would be joining him on the Fine Gael ticket in the next general election.
Mr Fox, who was walking by while the press conference took place, called out to the Minister asking why expensive student housing was being provided in the Grangegorman area while people were sleeping on the streets.
Assured by the Minister that works were taking place in Devaney Gardens and Dominick Street, Mr Fox interrupted saying: “I know that but listen, you can go home and have your dinner and sit down but these people can’t. They’re sleeping in doorways. It’s not fair.”
Mr Donohoe reiterated that the Government was committed to building council accommodation in the city centre but Mr Fox responded with the question: “Is that was a promise?”
“It’s happening at the moment,” said Mr Donohoe. “We’re doing a lot of work at the moment to change the derelict buildings into more homes . . . What I’m driven by and what the Government is driven by is trying to make sure that people have good accommodation, that you have a safe home and a roof over your head.”
Asked earlier to comment on reports that more than 1,600 people have been removed from the official homeless figures since March, Mr Donohoe said the Government was “not attempting in any way to influence the measurement of figures” and that the focus was on securing housing for those in emergency accommodation.
Mr Donohoe said he planned to present a tax code in the upcoming budget which would ensure people are able to take home enough of their salary to maintain their standard of living.
“Any tax changes I make will be affordable, they have to be sustainable,” he said, adding that in a post-Brexit Ireland he wanted to have a tax rate where someone can earn an average income without paying a higher rate of income tax.
The Minister said he believed Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was leading “a very united parliamentary party” despite news that Fine Gael Louth TD Peter Fitzpatrick may contest the next general election as an independent.
Mr Donohoe welcomed Ms Duffy’s decision to join the party as a “seminal moment” and described the barrister as “a candidate of really rare calibre” who would make an “exceptional TD for Dublin Central”.
Asked to explain her decision to join the party for the next general election, Ms Duffy said there was no point entering an “echo chamber” to bring about change.
“You have to have the conversations about the difficult things and you have to find a common ground in order to achieve that change. I believe the Fine Gael party is a broad and diverse party, there are many voices at the table.”
She said her policies would include calling for free, safe and legal abortion services, change in the ownership of schools and hospitals and how they are run, the decriminalisation of personal possession of drugs and policing on the streets.