With the 26 County housing crisis threatening to spiral out of control, Sinn Fein have begun a new campaign against the man most hold responsible for the scandal, Fine Gael Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy.
The Minister has often appeared out of his depth, failing to understand the statistics and metrics used to analyse the situation.
Loopholes in the government’s signature housing policy of rent control zones have actually caused rents to skyrocket, forcing many workers to undertake huge commutes or spend more than half their income on rent.
On Tuesday, Sinn Fein’s Housing spokesperson Eoin O Broin unveiled a mobile billboard featuring Murphy and said that he had “no confidence” in the Minister.
He listed the government’s failings to deliver on promises such as increasing the stock of social housing and the introduction of a vacant property tax.
Last month, Mr O Broin said that Murphy was “not competent” and was “not fit to hold the office” as the Minister failed to address key questions on affordable homes, rising rents and homelessness.
It came following a controversy over the re-categorisation of homelessness by a number of councils which appeared to be simply an attempt to massage the numbers of homeless downwards.
There was also a forced restatement of new home starts in the 26 Counties since 2011. Dublin government officials had used an inflated electricity connections number as a measure of construction activity, rather than monitor construction directly, meaning new homes starts have been more than a third less than journalists have been told.
Murphy’s focus on improving public perceptions rather than new policies has been blamed on the Fine Gael government’s ideological opposition to state involvement in housing. It has instead offered tax incentives to vulture funds and international landlords. It has also been accused of failing to sell its land banks and empty buildings and refusing to engage in the task of modernising the state’s housing stock.
The growing scandal over the mismanagement of the issue has even caused the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, to warn of the possibility of a snap election due to reported unease among their allies propping up the minority government, Fianna Fail, and a likely Sinn Fein no-confidence motion in Minister Murphy.
One Fine Gael TD, reported anonymously, said: “The Taoiseach put us on alert that there are two ways this can go. Either an election or Fianna Fail gets a kicking.”
The newly appointed Fianna Fail housing spokesman Darragh O’Brien has taken a stronger line, accusing Murphy of spreading “absolute fantasy” in the Dublin parliament. After the minister told the Dail that progress that has been made in the past year, Sinn Fein’s Eoin O Broin, who is threatening the no confidence motion, said he was “running out of adjectives to describe the minister’s speeches to the House”.
“The gap between what the minister is telling us week in and week out and the reality we are all experiencing in our constituencies is growing ever greater,” he said.