Subscriber OnlyPolitics

Mary Lou McDonald shifts on €300,000 target for average Dublin house prices

Sinn Féin leader says party would sell affordable homes for that figure rather than aim to lower average price

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald: 'I am talking about an affordable housing scheme. And this is tailored at that specific cohort of people who are squeezed in the middle.' Photograph: Sam Boal/Collins Photos

The Sinn Féin leader, Mary Lou McDonald, has said her party would have a scheme to sell affordable homes in Dublin for €300,000, appearing to move away from a previous position where she had indicated that average house prices in Dublin should fall to the same figure.

In an interview with The Irish Times before Christmas Ms McDonald suggested that she wished to see average house prices in Dublin fall to about €300,000, from a current level of about €420,000. She has since been fiercely criticised on the issue by both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, which have demanded to know how Sinn Féin would achieve the policy.

Sinn Féin remain optimistic there's still an appetite for change from the electorate a week out from the polls. Video: Enda O'Dowd

On Tuesday, Ms McDonald told RTÉ’s Today with Claire Byrne that the €300,000 figure related to an “an affordable housing scheme”.

“I am talking about an affordable housing scheme,” Ms McDonald said. “And this is tailored at that specific cohort of people who are squeezed in the middle.”


She denied that anyone would be faced with negative equity as a consequence of a fall in house prices.

Government’s 10% stamp duty on bulk house purchases failing to stop ‘emboldened’ vulture funds, SF claimsOpens in new window ]

She said the €300,000 figure was “the affordable price”, agreeing with presenter Claire Byrne that it was not the target for the average house price in Dublin.

This is an apparent contradiction of her comments to The Irish Times before Christmas. Asked then how far she would like to see house prices in Dublin fall, Ms McDonald said: “I want to see rents come down also. I think there is a huge crisis of affordability. I mean, for us, the figure of affordability, I would say the €300,000 mark in a place like Dublin, but obviously there would be a regional variation on that. The objective has to be to get prices as low as we feasibly can.”

Listen to our daily election podcast

Listen | 20:01

Since her comments to The Irish Times, Ms McDonald has been repeatedly targeted by political opponents, especially in Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil. They have warned that a slump in house prices would leave many people who have bought in recent years in negative equity, and have repeatedly demanded to know how Sinn Féin in government would achieve a drop in house prices.

In response, a spokesperson for Ms McDonald said: “In her interview, Mary Lou McDonald made the point that affordability in Dublin should be in the region of €300,000 and that is why Sinn Féin plans to deliver an affordable housing scheme that would deliver homes at scale for that price in Dublin city and lower again in the regions.

Housing ‘biggest issue by far’ in local elections as affordability ‘torn to shreds’ by Fine Gael, says SF leaderOpens in new window ]

“Workers and families on average incomes are locked out of the housing market including nurses, teachers, retail workers, factory workers and we need to deliver affordable homes that they can afford to buy. This proposal has been outlined on many occasions by our housing spokesperson, we have also put forward motions to the Dáil on it and the detail is also on our website.”

Later at a campaign event, Ms McDonald blamed Fine Gael for its “failure on housing” which she said had “resulted in the collapse of home ownership for so many across our city”.

Ireland is spending big on housing. So why is the sector still in crisis?Opens in new window ]

“Fine Gael’s failure on housing is clear to see in Dublin. Many people in neighbourhoods right across our capital city are faced with the choice of continuing to live with their parents well into their 30s, paying extortionate rents or feeling forced to emigrate because they can’t see a future for themselves here in Ireland,” Ms McDonald said in a statement subsequently issued by the party.

She said that, in partnership with local authorities and approved housing bodies, Sinn Féin would “deliver homes for under €300,000, alongside the delivery of large-scale social housing”.

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times