Murphy refuses to acknowledge housing disaster
Murphy refuses to acknowledge housing disaster


Acts of civil disobedience are set to continue after rallies across Ireland and a motion of no confidence in the Dail failed to remove the Minister for Housing, Eoghan Murphy, over his failure to tackle an escalating housing crisis.

Last weekend demonstrations were held across 13 counties, under the ‘Take Back the City’ banner, with the largest event in Dublin, where demonstrators marched down O’Connell Street and held a large ‘sit down’ protest at O’Connell Bridge.

The protests took place in the wake of forced evictions, including one involving masked Gardai acting alongside a masked ‘heavy gang’.

Several other demonstrations took place across Dublin, with other events in towns and cities including Galway, Cork, Waterford and Belfast. Activists in Dublin also occupied a vacant property in Crumlin to coincide with the demonstrations.

People Before Profit TD Brid Smith said: “Activists are challenging the idea that properties can lie vacant in the midst of a housing crisis. They recognise that the government’s commitment to the market is providing no real solutions.”

The protests have raised questions about why property and land hoarding is going unchecked, why rent pressure zones have failed while evictions take place on a pretext, and why those in power are not being held to account.

Independent statistics continue to paint a devastating picture. In Dublin the average rent for new tenancies is now 1600 euro, with annual rent rises for new tenancies 8.4%, despite a supposed rent cap of 4%.

A government plan for 3,500 social homes, the ‘Repair and Leasing’ Scheme, has delivered just fifteen across the 26 Counties. Less than a quarter of planned social housing has been delivered in the first six months.

Meanwhile, Minister Eoghan Murphy has focused on his public image, redefining homelessness in order to take more than 1,600 adults and children off the homeless figures. A similar strategy has been used to manipulate the total number in need of social housing support.

Sinn Fein spokesman on housing Eoin O Broin said official figures being published by Murphy’s department are now “meaningless” and “not worth the paper they are written on”.

“It is worse than awful,” he said. “It is time now that the collation of homelessness figures is taken right out of the hands of the department and handed to an independent body like the Central Statistics Office. “

Minister Murphy told a joint parliamentary committee that he could not say when the crisis would peak, but admitted more families will be presenting as homeless over the winter. In rambling comments, he told committee members: “It depends on how you define ‘crisis’. Very regrettably there are going to be families in emergency accommodation for quite some time to come because we have to build houses for them.”

With the threat of lives being lost due to cold weather, Murphy later promised a delivery of prefabricated homes for homeless families. The Phoenix Park in Dublin may be used as one of the sites for so-called “portable homes” by the state Housing Agency, which is planning initial shanty towns of up to 250 prefabs.

Sinn Fein TD Eoin O Broin demanded the “shackles” be taken off local authorities to let them build desperately-needed homes, because the Department of Housing has refused to approve large-scale council-led developments. “All the councils are being given for social is small insular developments of between 20 and 50-odd units,” he said.

After a stormy debate in the Dail on Wednesday, Murphy survived a Sinn Fein motion of no confidence in him by 59 votes to 49 after Fianna Fail abstained.

His voice wavering, clearly for effect, the Minister denounced the call to build homes as “populism”.

“I won’t be distracted by populist nonsense and I won’t be hounded out of office,” he declared. “I will not be responsible for damning another generation by populist short term solutions.”

Repeatedly accusing Sinn Fein of having no alternative, Mr O Broin pointed to the raft of policies, documents, analyses and legislation his party had drafted to address the situation.

But he said Fianna Fail had lined up time after time to support the minority government. If they will not listen to Sinn Fein “then they will have to listen to the people,” he said.

Mr O Broin said Minister Murphy was the main obstacle to addressing the housing crisis. He said his government’s ‘Rebuilding Ireland’ programme was “fundamentally flawed; it is failing; it is making the problem worse”.

He said the housing crisis would not be solved overnight but “Fine Gael have been in government for seven long years”.

“The fact that Eoghan Murphy cannot see the problem in front of him shows it is time for him to go,” Mr O Broin said.

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