Sinn Féin has defended a decision not to oppose the sale of public land to a developer for a scheme including for-profit housing, despite it being at odds with party policy.
Members of South Dublin County Council voted for the sale of local authority land in Tallaght in southwest Dublin to build 620 homes, despite abstentions from three of Sinn Féin's four councillors present.
A fourth Sinn Féin counsellor was absent for the vote on Monday night.
The party’s policy is that all homes built on public land should be social or affordable.
The deal in Killinarden involves the sale of almost 16 hectares to developer Arden for €14 million in exchange for the development of almost 500 social and affordable homes.
Another 120 homes will be sold privately in a project made up of 60 per cent affordable homes of about €250,000 each, 20 per cent social and 20 per cent private.
Sinn Féin councillor Louise Dunne said the proposal brought to council had an improved social and affordable housing component than a previous proposal which the party voted against. She said the revised proposal was "the best possible plan".
“Rather than vote against it, I just abstained because we don’t want to see the delay of delivery of much-needed homes,” she said.
Sinn Féin’s housing spokesman Eoin Ó Broin TD said the party thought the revised proposal was better than other joint venture projects with private developers where there was a lower share of social and affordable housing proposed for public land.
“They didn’t want to be seen to be standing in the way of this development so an abstention was their preferred course of action,” said Mr Ó Broin.
He said that it looked like South Dublin County Council was getting full market value for the 20 per cent portion of the land that was being privatised.
People Before Profit councillor Madeleine Johansson said she was "surprised" that Sinn Féin abstained on the vote given the party's opposition to selling public land to private developers when this project includes 120 homes sold at private market prices.
‘Sold for profit’
“It is disappointing because the left have to be very strong on housing and public land should not be used for private housing to be sold for profit,” said Ms Johansson who was one of just two councillors to vote against the project on Monday.
Mr Ó Broin said Sinn Féin did not impose a whip on planning matters and that it was up to councillors and individual local authorities to assess projects.
He acknowledged there was still a loss of homes in the project “that should be affordable” but blamed the Government for not funding more council housing allowing local authorities to develop large-scale housing projects funded by cheap borrowing.
Tánaiste and Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar said that Sinn Féin representatives had routinely voted against new housing developments over the last three years.
“They are for housing in principle, even talk about it as a right, but always seem to find a reason to oppose it in practice. Not here, not there, not anyway, not now, not then, not ever. Not those people. Not that model. Not funded like that. Not that high. Not built in that way,” he said.