Varadkar ‘happy’ to rephrase comments on people refusing social housing

Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty accuses Taoiseach of seeking to shift blame for housing crisis

Dáil stock images Micheál Martin Pearse Doherty general shot

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said he is happy to rephrase comments he made about people refusing offers of social accommodation.

Sinn Féin deputy leader Pearse Doherty called on Mr Varadkar to apologise for remarks he made on Tuesday, both at a press conference and in the Dáil.

Mr Varadkar said at the press conference: “I work with a lot of people in emergency accommodation in my constituency. There are a lot of people in emergency accommodation who have refused multiple offers of social housing. It’s a much more complicated picture than people would like to make it out to be.”

He later said in the Dáil there were “plenty of cases” in his constituency where people who have been in emergency accommodation for two or three years and had turned down “multiple offers” of accommodation.


Speaking during Leaders’ Questions on Wednesday, Mr Doherty said not only were the remarks untrue, but they seek “to shift the blame for your failed housing policies away from Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil and place it onto the victims of this crisis”.

“It creates the impression that those faced with homelessness are choosing to be in that situation and that’s not true for those living in emergency accommodation or indeed for the thousands of others who are sofa surfing or back in the box room in their parents’ homes,” the Donegal TD said.

Mr Varadkar said the Sinn Féin TD had “misquoted” and “misrepresented” him and that he had never sought to blame anyone for the housing crisis or for homelessness.

The Fine Gael leader said he had made the comments in response to an individual case but that it was “a simple fact that there are people who are on the housing list who have refused offers of accommodation, and in some cases, multiple offers of accommodation and often for good reasons”.

Mr Varadkar said it was “pretty huge leap” to say stating this fact was “somehow blaming them”.

The Taoiseach added: “If it would help and if it would help to contain the deputy [Doherty] and his outburst, I’m happy to rephrase the term ‘plenty’ to ‘some’.”

Mr Varadkar acknowledged the State was experiencing a “very deep housing crisis”. He accused Mr Doherty of seeking to make out that it had been created by the Government or its policies, which was “far too simplistic”.

The Taoiseach said there were a large number of countries facing a housing crisis at the moment, including Northern Ireland. He said Ireland had experienced a dramatic increase in population and for about seven years, almost no new homes were built following the financial crisis “when the Government was broke”.

“This Government and the one before us and the one before that has done everything possible to turn this around and we are at long last now seeing some real progress,” he added. “I know it’s not enough but it is real progress, and it’s something I think you should acknowledge.”

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times