Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has vehemently denied the claim by homeless campaigner Fr Peter McVerry that he overrode Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien on the issue of extending the eviction ban.
Mr Varadkar told Newstalk Breakfast that the claim was “100 per cent untrue” and there was “zero evidence” to support it.
Mr O'Brien had presented three options to Cabinet, the first of which was not to continue the eviction ban and that was what happened, the Taoiseach said.
The Taoiseach also said the Government did not know the "exact number" but was aware of trends happening in the rental market.
"We did know, and I think everyone knows for a number of years now, that we've seen an exodus of small landlords from the rental market.
"We were certainly aware that that was an issue, and that's one of the things that's contributing to the housing crisis and continuing the ban for long would have caused more landlords to exit the market, thus making the problem worse."
He acknowledged that the State is in a "very deep housing crisis", describing the rental market as being in a "terrible state", but said we should not lose sight of the volume of tenancies being created, noting 50,000 were added last year.
Mr Varadkar said the Government is making every effort to “free up” accommodation, he said, adding, if necessary, the Government will “sit on” local authorities to make sure they do everything possible to make houses available.
The only way that public perception could be changed was through results, Mr Varadkar said, adding that while there has been some levelling off in house prices, it was frustrating that it is taking so long.
“We are addressing concerns, but there are constraints.”
Mr Varadkar said new planning regulations would hopefully “speed up things”.
“We are only starting to get to the point of equilibrium. We have to redouble our efforts and do everything we can to speed up supply. But there are real constraints, and unfortunately no matter who's in government, those constraints will be there.”
The new planning legislation and planning court would mean that planning applications would not get “stuck” in court, he said.
“Many of the people who oppose these changes are actually the ones who give out about prices being so bad, and the same thing we see on the ground. I see it in my constituency, I see it happening all over the country. The people who are loudest about the housing crisis are the ones who are most likely to object to your home.”
Mr Varadkar added that he has not objected to any planning applications in his own constituency in seven years as he could not do so “in good conscience” during a housing emergency.