SIMON Coveney has defended his statement that there would be no families living in hotels by July 2017, insisting it wasn’t a case of jumping the gun or making false promises but he was focusing on people’s efforts to solve the homeless crisis.
Mr Coveney made the commitment back when he was housing minister but his prediction never materialised and homelessness figures continued to soar.
Mr Coveney has criticised Sinn Féin for false promises in the lead up to the election, saying many are not deliverable. When asked about his commitment to ensuring no families would be living in hotels by July 2017, he said it was a target rather than a promise.
“I do what I always do, which is try to set very ambitious targets and then go after them. That’s what drives the public sector to deliver. We’ve managed to take thousands of families out of hotels,” he told The Echo.
However, he acknowledged that there are still families in hotels in 2020: “We didn’t achieve that target. I think the fact that I said it focused people’s efforts on trying to resolve that.”
When questioned on why other parties’ promises shouldn’t be believed, when he had also committed to things that weren’t delivered on, he said: “We achieved an awful lot of that, but I would be the first to say that because of the numbers of people coming into homelessness, getting all families out of hotels simply wasn’t deliverable in that timeframe.”
He went on to state that it wasn’t an election promise: “This was something I did to create pressure on the Department I was working in to deliver as fast as they could. There’s a big difference between that and people making an election promise to buy votes. That’s not what I did.
“What you are seeing at the moment is Sinn Féin promising you things that are going to damage Ireland, damage quality of life, and are going to make it impossible for us to pay for the new public services that need to be created in the next few years.
“Their manifesto and promises are essentially a falsehood and I have an obligation to point that out,” he said.
Mr Coveney said that while both rents and house prices are too expensive in Cork, rental prices have slowed down, while house prices have largely flatlined.
“Homeless numbers are falling in Cork, and nationally. Our housing strategy is starting to work. The idea that we would go in some radical new direction now and undermine that progress, I think would be a big mistake,” he said.