Irish Times: Published Mon 30th, December, 2019
The housing crisis
Sir, – Christmas is a time for family gatherings, and many families have a tradition of coming together to catch up as well as celebrate. I wonder how many family gatherings like ours had housing as a hot topic of discussion.
We reached the unanimous conclusion that those saving for a house were in fact sponsoring the Housing Assistance Payment (Hap), which is not only competing with them directly in the rental market, but also in the sales market. There was a lot of anger upon realisation that local authorities purchase and lease from the private sector in competition with taxpayers, who are obliged to fork out taxes so that local authorities are handed money from central government to compete directly against them. In so doing, local authorities push up prices in a scarce market through excessive demand. Family members have different housing needs, but when we went through the variety of needs, the conclusion was reached that nobody really benefited from the Hap, hubs and hotels solution, which is the root cause of increasing homelessness as rents have long since exceeded a reasonable level. Building social housing now on the scale required is the solution as it removes local authorities from the private sector and from forcing prices up due to excessive demand and provides essential stability for those in need of social housing.
Furthermore, we agreed that the Government strategy of keeping housing off the State books has had social costs well beyond what decent people are willing to tolerate. The irony is that the EU Regional Development Fund is available to local authorities if Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy would only allow them to apply. – Yours, etc,
Irish Times: Sent Mon 16th, December, 2019
Housing Versus Brexit
In 2018 local authorities built 2,022 housing units and a total of 17,926 households depended on HAP by finding houses to rent in the private sector. In 2019, 910 social housing units were built by local authorities in the first nine months. Unfortunately not everyone is able to find a house or apartment under the HAP scheme because there are not enough and over ten thousand people are homeless. Other agencies provide housing too but the numbers are small in comparison to the need and local authorities lease and buy on the open market where the can but there is no denying that it all not enough.
It's not surprising that the general public have no confidence in a Minister who is presiding over this and that this was obvious both during local elections and the by elections. The Taoiseach and the Cabinet have stood by their Minister and held the country to ransom over Brexit by threatening to hold an election if Fianna Fáil supported the No Confidence vote in Minister Eoghan Murphy. That is all history now and politics moves on.
However, it has come to the stage where people have had enough and are saying children are more important than Brexit and they are willing to face down the Taoiseach and his threats to cause the political instability of a General Election. People are asking If the Taoiseach supports the housing Minister and normalizes homelessness, then what will he do on a post Brexit trade deal?
I too am not keen to wait to find out because Government's track record on helping the vulnerable everywhere and not just on housing is appalling. We dont need to have another No Confidence vote, its an open secret that the Oireachtas has No Confidence in the Minister for Health and in fact in the Taoiseach by association. The irony for Fine Gael is that the work Simon Coveney is doing is probably prolonging Leo Varadkar in position long past his sell by date.
Irish Times: Sent Thurs 29th, November, 2019
Confidence and Supply has been abused
Confidence and Supply has been abused by FG leadership and the Taoiseach should be called out on this.
The Taoiseach has placed himself and FG Ministers as untouchable as long as the C&S agreement is in place, it seems.
If a No Confidence vote is passed on a FG Minister, the Taoiseach will collapse the Government seems to be the accepted political wisdom.
Uncertainty regarding Brexit has been used by FG for political purposes and now provides cover sheltering Ministers from accountability and Government is no more than a game in which a political party with a minority in the Dáil holds power by holding the country to ransom.
The de facto choice is FG and anything they decide or an election in spite of Brexit. For the sake of restoring some credibility to the Dáil and some accountability to the Cabinet, I am asking my party leader Micheál Martin to pull the plug on the C&S because it has been abused. Leo Varadkar is acting as a spoilt child and it's not Micheál Martin's fault the Taoiseach has shown that he is willing to abuse the goodwill that elected his party to government.
Freedom of speech and party reform in FF allows me to make these points publicly as a member of the party because open access to leadership and genuine debate are the norm.
Time to call out the Taoiseach and restore the Dáil to what it should be and hold the Cabinet to account in my view. The Cabinet are collectively responsible according to the Constitution but abuse of C&S is making this impossible.