Cork TD accuses housing minister of 'running away'

A Sinn Féin private members’ Bill to extend the current ban on evictions, which ends on 31 March, was rejected on Wednesday by coalition TDs, leading to calls from one Cork TD for the Taoiseach, Tánaiste and senior minsters to face the House.
Cork TD accuses housing minister of 'running away'

Minister for Housing Darragh O'Brien speaking in Dublin City centre on Monday during the launch of the new Vacant Homes Action Plan. Photo: Damien Storan.

A Cork TD has accused Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien of running away from Opposition questions after Government TDs voted against a proposal to extend of a ban on evictions.

A Sinn Féin private members’ Bill to extend the current ban on evictions, which ends on 31 March, was rejected on Wednesday by coalition TDs, leading to calls from one Cork TD for the Taoiseach, Tánaiste and senior ministers to face the House.

Speaking in the Dáil chamber, Thomas Gould, Sinn Féin TD for Cork North Central, said he agreed with the motion calling for the eviction ban to be extended, and he described the housing situation as a humanitarian crisis and a national emergency.

Mr Gould then accused the Housing Minister, Darragh O’Brien, of attacking the Sinn Féin housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin and then leaving Green Party Minister of State at the Department of Housing Malcolm Noonan to face Opposition questions.

“The senior Minister came into the House a while ago, attacked the Opposition, attacked Deputy Ó Broin, and attacked us all,” Mr Gould said.

“He answered no questions, ran out the door and left the Minister of State here, as happens every time we have a discussion on housing. It is a medal the Government should be giving to the Minister of State because Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael Ministers will not come into the House and answer the real questions.

“There are 11,632 people in homelessness, including 3,442 children. Where are the Ministers, the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste?” Mr Gould asked.

“I was out canvassing in the past week in Mayfield, the Glen and Knocknaheeny. There were boarded-up houses in virtually every terrace in these council estates. I listened to the Minister of State waffle on, and I mean him no disrespect, about the Government giving money for 120 units when there are more than 500 units empty.” With 31 local authorities in the country and thousands of houses boarded-up, the Government was not doing anything to address the problem, Mr Gould claimed.

With the eviction ban due to end on 31 March, he said the figures listed by Mr Noonan constituted “a drop in the ocean”.

Last week, housing charity Threshold, told The Echo that some 434 adults and 250 children across Cork city and county will have to leave their homes on March 31 when the ban on evictions comes to a close.

“These are real homeless people we are talking about, people who are terrified. There is five weeks to go, and the Government cannot give people an answer,” Mr Gould said.

“A man who came into my constituency office, and I have dozens of families in this position, has three children in college and one doing the leaving certificate and he is to be evicted in April. How are his children going to do their college exams or, more importantly, their leaving certificate, if they do not know they will have a roof over their heads?” Mr Gould said Mr Noonan and the Government would not answer those questions.

“It is an absolute disgrace and proof, if ever it was needed, that Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are in for the big money, the vulture funds and the cuckoo funds,” the Sinn Féin asserted.

“The Minister of State, however, is a member of the Green Party which was supposed to stand up for the ordinary people. The Green Party said when it went into government that it would do that, but it is letting the minister, Deputy O’Brien, run out the door here. I am asking the Minister of State go to the Green Party and to ask if it will it ban evictions.

“Cork City Council unanimously passed a motion this week to have the eviction ban for another year. This included Green Party, Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Sinn Féin on a Labour Party motion and we cannot get an answer from the Government,” Mr Gould said.

On Thursday, Tánaiste Micheál Martin said he did not believe the ban on evictions could be extended for a short period. He said the Government was looking at this from a legal and policy perspective and was mindful of possible negative impacts of such an extension.

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