The Government has defeated Sinn Féin’s motion calling for the eviction ban to be extended, securing a majority of 83 votes to 68 in the Dáil on Wednesday.
Sinn Féin had put forward a private member’s motion calling for the eviction ban, which is due to expire at the end of this month on a phased basis, to be extended until January 2024.
The Government put forward its own countermotion, with an amendment from the Regional Independent Group, which TDs voted on this evening.
Green Party TD Neasa Hourigan voted with the Opposition, a move that will likely see her lose the party whip again.
[ Eviction ban: Five key concessions made by Coalition to secure Independent support ]
Five members of the Regional Independent Group voted with the Government, after reaching an agreement with the Coalition on a number of housing proposals.
These included Seán Canney, Denis Naughten, Michael Lowry, Cathal Berry and Matt Shanahan, while Verona Murphy and Peter Fitzpatrick voted against the Government. Rural Independent TD Danny Healy-Rae also voted with the Government, while Regional Independent TD Noel Grealish was not present for the Dáil vote.
Patrick Costello, who had previously lost the Green Party whip for supporting an Opposition motion voted with the Government, as did Joe McHugh, who resigned the Fine Gael party whip last year.
After the Dáil vote Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald told her parliamentary party meeting: “The government may have won their vote this evening, but they have categorically lost the argument. It is a pyrrhic victory. The consequences of their actions for workers and families will be catastrophic.”
She accused Government and Independent TDs of voting “to make more people homeless” adding: “It is a despicable decision.”
In advance of the Dáil vote, a Green Party minister had warned voting against the Government is a “very serious matter” and “destabilises the Coalition”.
Speaking ahead of the vote, Labour TD Ged Nash asked the Taoiseach how much it had “cost the Government” to “buy” the votes of Regional Independent TDs.
Speaking to reporters in Dublin on Wednesday, Minister of State Ossian Smyth said “we have a programme for Government, in our case it was endorsed by 76 per cent of members, we have a programme to implement and if people vote against the Government, everyone knows that the sanction is”.
Mr Smyth declined to outline what specific sanctions might be faced by Dublin Central TD Neasa Hourigan.
Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe said it was a “serious matter for any parliamentary party”.
“Hardly a week goes by in which we’re not asking each other to make difficult decisions or cast votes in the Dáil on very difficult topics,” he said. Ms Hourigan is a constituency colleague of Mr Donohoe.
He said there was “great respect” at Government level for the views that come forward from parliamentary parties but “we do ultimately reach common decisions that we all do need to stand by”.
Mr Donohoe said he didn’t have a final cost for the measures agreed with the Regional Independent Group in advance of the Dáil vote, but that he had been involved in discussions in recent days and last night.
He said the measures would be affordable inside the budget of the Department of Housing.
Mr Donohoe said he was “certain” that the priorities or proposals were affordable. He said versions of the proposals had been suggested by parties of Government as well as the RIG. “We’re always looking at different ideas and different options that can improve things,” he said.
He defended the Government agreeing to measures proposed by Independent Deputies, saying “when we’re engaging with other Deputies in relation to an important vote, it is to be expected that they will bring forward proposals that are important to them”.
He said when “dealing with a difficulty of such scale” the Government was “always considering different options”.
Earlier Taoiseach Leo Varadkar branded Sinn Féin’s motion calling for the eviction ban to be extended a “show motion from showboaters” in the Dáil on Wednesday.
Mr Varadkar said the Opposition party’s motion was not going to pass this evening, and that even if it did, “it would have no practical effect”.
The Taoiseach was responding during Leaders’ Questions to Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald, who said the housing crisis won’t be fixed by a “tired, jaded Government that has thrown in the towel”.
Ms McDonald said by lifting the ban, the Government and “those who back them” are choosing to “escalate the housing crisis that was already out of control”.
“You’re choosing to make people homeless,” the Dublin Central TD said.
[ Sally Rooney: Renters are being exploited and evictions must be stopped ]
Ms McDonald said the Government was “scrambling all over the place” and remains unable to answer the fundamental question of “where are people to go in nine days’ time”.
She said 12,000 people are currently homeless, with more than 3,000 children growing up in emergency accommodation.
“Now, because of your decision to lift the eviction ban, 3,000 more households are now looking at that harrowing experience,” she added.
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Social Democrats leader Holly Cairns said Fine Gael’s entire tenure in office has been “one long litany of broken promises and abject failure on housing, turning a housing crisis into a housing disaster”.
“Each year, we think things can’t get any worse, yet somehow, under Fine Gael they do,” she said.
The Cork South-West TD said no area was immune from the “wrecking ball of your disastrous housing policies” and that the decision to end the eviction ban was “particularly cruel”. She added that the housing crisis was now a “societal catastrophe”.
People Before Profit–Solidarity TD Mick Barry said the Green Party were not only “showing their true colours this afternoon, they are nailing those colours to the mast”.
“The Fianna Fáil-Fine Gael mast, on the side of the landlords, and on the side of the men and women who will evict little children into homelessness in the weeks and months ahead,” he said. “That’s the truth of the matter.”
Meanwhile, Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien said legislation will be introduced to guarantee renters will have the first chance to bid on their home if it is being put up for sale.
The right to first refusal “will be underpinned in legislation. It will be a legal right. It will be done by way of primary legislation,” Mr O’Brien told RTÉ's News at One.
Asked what would happen if a landlord is not happy with the price being offered by the tenant, Mr O’Brien said: “It is based on an independent market valuation. And what we are seeing in the market right now is privately many landlords are selling to their tenants.”
Pressed further on whether the landlord would be obliged to accept the price set independently, the Minister said: “If it’s a market price, it is an open market price. We are already seeing this happening.”