The “clock is ticking” for thousands of people now facing eviction with the moratorium due to lift in 48 hours time, Sinn Féin has said.
The party’s deputy leader Pearse Doherty said the Government had voted to make people homeless after defeating Sinn Féin’s bill seeking to extend the eviction ban until January 2024 earlier this week.
There were heated exchanges during Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil again on Thursday, with Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl saying people watching how the parliament conducted its business were “disgusted with the sort of behaviour that goes on here”.
Mr Ó Fearghaíl said the constant heckling and interruptions between the Sinn Féin and Government benches was “absolutely intolerable”.
Mr Doherty said there was still time for the Government to reverse its decision not to extend the eviction ban, which expires at the end of the month on a phased basis.
“Shame on you,” the Donegal TD said to Tánaiste Micheál Martin. “You are making this decision, not anybody else, you are making this decision in 48 hours to throw countless families to the wolves.
“You still have time to do the right thing, you should extend the eviction ban. It is on your heads. These families are being abandoned by their Government. It should never happen in modern democracy and it is shameful what yous have done.”
Independent TD Catherine Connolly pointed to the latest Simon Communities report, which showed just 29 rental properties were available within the limits of the Housing Assistance Payment (Hap) scheme in March.
Ms Connolly said the decision to lift the ban was a “cruel, heartless policy” from a Government which put “political expedience to the top”.
“Rather than do this next year or in a different way, you did it with an eye to the local and European elections [in 2024], without a doubt,” she said.
The Galway West TD asked would the Government “see sense” and as the Simon Communities charity had said on Thursday morning “it’s never too late to undo a bad decision”.
“This particular one [decision] is bad, cruel and unacceptable,” she added.
Mr Martin said an indefinite ban on evictions would make the situation “far worse” and create “a greater exodus” of more properties from the rental market. He said the Government needed to stop houses from exiting the rental sector.
The Tánaiste said there had been an “extraordinary” population increase over the last decade, with over five million people in the State.
Mr Martin said there were population pressures due to the war in Ukraine and an increase in asylum seekers. The Fianna Fáil leader added that he believed in building social housing and not on an over-reliance on HAP.
“I think we need to build and the approved housing bodies have done a significantly good job in completing projects,” he said.
Mr Martin also said 1,491 people exited homelessness in the last quarter of 2022 and the Government was “preventing a lot of homelessness” and that its Housing First policy had been a significant and effective intervention.