The Dáil on Tuesday evening voted confidence in Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien by 86 votes to 63, with the support of a number of Independent TDs. There was one abstention by Independent TD Marion Harkin.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin moved the motion of confidence following the tabling of a motion of no confidence in the Minister by People Before Profit and Solidarity. Insisting that Mr O’Brien’s plans “are already making a difference”, he said the Minister had taken office at a very difficult time and was dealing with the housing issue “with great dedication and commitment”.
“He has substantially changed the direction of housing policy, introducing a new era of building social and affordable homes.”
During a rancorous and raucous debate Mr Martin said the Minister had been “directly and personally targeted by the Opposition and their online trolls”.
He claimed the Opposition “trots out its rehearsed anger most” on housing, and displays “breathtaking arrogance”. Mr Martin said that in housing objections to planning were a major factor, and he accused Sinn Féin of “industrial scale opposition”.
Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said Mr O’Brien had taken the correct “broad approach” despite rising interest rates and global inflation. He pointed to the land-use tax as the “right republican thing to do” and the cost-rental model offered “real hope” for young people. He said Mr O’Brien was determined to expand it, and the Government had agreed to the reform of the planning system, which was “essential”.
Sinn Féin Cavan-Monaghan TD Matt Carthy described Mr O’Brien as the Harry Kane of Irish politics, “missing targets and missing them widely”. But the Minister had an advantage over the England soccer captain “because he simply moves the goalposts by setting new targets that he knows go nowhere near the level of output that’s required”.
People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said their no confidence motion was not about Mr O’Brien personally or about cynicism. He said it was a desperate attempt to force the Government to acknowledge that its housing policy was an “absolute catastrophe”.
Mr O’Brien, who spoke last in the debate, said he was acutely aware of the challenge in tackling the housing crisis. He said everyone had a responsibility to resolve the issue, “not to capitalise on it, not to manipulate it, not to sow division, not to block, delay, use any tactic”.
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald accused the Minister of turning to denial, and almost three years after the last election, when the Taoiseach sang from the rooftops that the crisis would be fixed, things were worse. She claimed Mr O’Brien was out of his depth and put vested interests first and was just the latest in a long line of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael housing ministers who believe the market will sort the housing crisis.
Ms McDonald said the two parties had over a decade to solve housing but they have only made it worse.
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said that a left-wing government would cause misery in an ideological experiment. He wanted to turn the corner on housing and said “I know the Government needs to do much more on housing in the next two years”.
He described Mr O’Brien as a “tireless worker” and a “good man, a man who cares”.
Labour’s Ged Nash said “I have more faith in Santa Claus than I do in this Government to solve the housing crisis”.