Taoiseach says Christmas general election would ‘build no houses’

Minister for Housing to face second motion of no confidence in just over a year

A motion of no confidence in Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy (right) will be debated in the Dáil next week. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the move is designed to give publicity to opposition parties. File photograph: Nick Bradshaw

A motion of no confidence in Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy (right) will be debated in the Dáil next week. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the move is designed to give publicity to opposition parties. File photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

A motion of no confidence in the Minister for Housing with a possible general election in Christmas week “will not build any houses”, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has warned TDs.

Mr Varadkar said it might get opposition parties some publicity but “that’s about it”.

The Taoiseach made his remarks as Sinn Féin housing spokesman Eoin Ó Broin confirmed in the Dáil his party’s support for a Social Democrats motion of no confidence in Eoghan Murphy, which is to be debated next week.

Mr Murphy previously survived a no confidence motion in September 2018.

Mr Ó Broin said the Social Democrats “have said ‘enough is enough’ and I wholeheartedly agree” as he highlighted that homelessness had increased by 67 per cent, with more than 10,000 homeless, since the Rebuilding Ireland programme was launched.

He added that the four new TDs to be elected this weekend in byelections would have their first vote on whether they supported the Government’s “failed housing policy”.

He referred to the annual report of housing agency Respond, which showed that just 8 per cent of families in its five hub units were able to exit homelessness into social housing last year.

But the Taoiseach said that family homelessness has levelled off in the past year. He added that Rebuilding Ireland was a five-year and not a two-year plan. It was showing results and more houses were being built, including 22,000 last year.

Mr Murphy also criticised the Social Democrats motion as a “stunt” when the party could have brought forward an idea that might be supported and might “do something”.

The Minister came under further pressure from Fianna Fáil, who introduced legislation to allow councils to allocate up to 30 per cent of housing for first time buyers struggling to get on the property ladder because of high rental costs.

Fianna Fáil housing spokesman Darragh O’Brien said home ownership had plummeted to 67 per cent, below the EU average of 69 per cent, and down from a high in 1991 of 82 per cent.

The Planning and Development (Amendment) (First Time Buyers) Bill aims to prevent the “bulk buying of estates by real estate investment trusts, REITs, cuckoo funds and the State” and make them available to renters seeking to buy their first home.

Sinn Féin challenged Fianna Fáil to back the Social Democrats motion and questioned the party’s support for a Government and Minister their TDs have consistently criticised.

The party has signalled it will not back the motion of no confidence although TDs are reluctant to be seen effectively supporting the Government’s policy on housing.

But Fianna Fáil Wicklow TD Pat Casey said “those politicians who think that a general election in December or January will help ease the housing crisis at one of the most dangerous periods for homelessness should also reflect deeply on the politics they are promoting”.