Jonathan McCambridge, PA
The Government has been accused of “running scared” of a vote on a Sinn Féin motion to extend the eviction ban.
During a debate in the Dáil on Tuesday evening, Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien introduced an amendment which would prevent a vote on the Sinn Féin Bill if passed.
The amendment outlined a number of schemes and policies introduced to support renters and landlords during the housing crisis.
Sinn Féin housing spokesman Eoin Ó Broin said it was an attempt to prevent a vote on his private member’s Bill while Labour Party leader Ivana Bacik said it was an effort to “give cover” to TDs who were feeling pressure for voting with the Government.
The motion tabled by Sinn Fein calls for the eviction ban, which the coalition Government has decided will expire at the end of the month, to be extended until January next year.
During a Dáil vote last week, a Government counter-motion was passed after it received support from a group of independent TDs.
Moving his Bill, Mr Ó Broin said: “The reason why we tabled the Bill today is because we wanted to give every member of Dáil Éireann a very simple opportunity to state clearly and categorically through a vote on legislation as to whether they were in favour of extending this crucial protection for renters or whether they were going to vote to increase homelessness.
“I would have thought the Government would have welcomed that vote.
“But now it appears the Government does not want a vote on this Bill at all.
“At the 11th hour the Government tabled a reasoned amendment; I don’t think there has in my time been an amendment of this type to a private member’s Bill.
“The purpose of that is to avoid the vote on the legislation itself.
“I have to ask the Minister, ‘What you are afraid of? You are running scared of that vote.”
Mr Ó Broin said the Government amendment was an “exact replica” of the wording of its counter-motion from last week.
He added: “I am urging all TDs in this house to reject this stunt.
“The argument is the same as it was last week.
“The Government has not put in place the mitigation measures, it has not put in place a contingency plan to stop the incessant rise in homelessness over the next number of weeks and months.
Mr O’Brien moved the amendment and appealed to opposition parties to “stop the politicisation of such an important matter”.
He said: “All of us are aware of the very difficult situation as regard the private rental sector.
“The measures that you would bring forward this evening would further shrink that private rental market.
“By continuing your demonisation of the private rental sector you continue to drive (out) more and more landlords and reduce the properties that are out there.
“It is Sinn Féin short-termism versus a government taking a responsible decision.
“We will not be dissuaded from the course of delivering more social homes.”
Ms Bacik described the Sinn Féin Bill as an attempt to take a “compassionate approach” to the housing crisis.
She said the Government amendment had added little in terms of practical measures to deal with the crisis.
She added: “The amendment gives little comfort to families facing this cliff edge from Saturday.
“It reads like an attempt to give cover to those TDs on the Government benches and also independents who backed the Government last week and who are feeling the pressure in their constituencies.”
The Dáil is set to vote on Wednesday evening. Before that, the Government will face a confidence motion over its decision to end the eviction ban.