Eoghan Murphy has started a rot which is spreading through the government, according to one of his colleagues, after the Minister for Housing narrowly survived a motion of no confidence.
In an unusual address - said to have lasted between 10 and 15 minutes - Kildare North TD Bernard Durkan admitted Murphy’s failure to tackle the housing issue would be a problem for Fine Gael in the next 26 County general election, now expected early next year.
Mr Durkan said he was offering to help but that some of the difficulties in housing were “unacceptable and shouldn’t happen”.
Two months into his appointment, Minister Murphy (pictured) admitted he was struggling to “get a handle” on the job, and since then has has floundered from own failed policy initiative to the next.
The average rent in Dublin has doubled since 2010, while escalating house prices are forcing the small number of Dubliners who can afford to buy a house to leave the city. Almost half of buyers are now moving to more distant areas of Leinster, where they face a gruelling daily commute to their jobs and their old communities.
A photograph of a young child being forced to eat in the street off a piece of cardboard has brought the issue of homelessness in Ireland back to the fore. The Department of Housing’s own adjusted figures now show that almost four thousand children are homeless, a statistic which has been described as a “national shame” by Sinn Féin deputy leader Pearse Doherty.
A demonstration on Thursday brought several thousand people, many of them families living in emergency accommodation, onto the streets of Dublin city centre in a protest organised by homeless people themselves.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has agreed the figures as “terrible” and “shameful”, but has appeared incapable of taking action.
Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy, who introduced the motion of no confidence in the Minister, said it was “morally and politically” the right thing to do. She told Eoghan Murphy, “you have failed utterly in your job”, and he had to go.
Rise TD Paul Murphy said Fine Gael had relied on a “rogues’ gallery” of scandalised TDs to maintain their “pro-landlord, pro-development policies”. Murphy had been supported by “liar and convicted tax cheat Michael Lowry” and “by a landlord who has used dog-whistling of a racist kind in order to distract from the true causes of the housing crisis”.
Independent TD Séamus Healy said the Minister had presided over the biggest homelessness crisis since the famine and he was part of an extreme free market, pro-rich government. Mr Healy said the housing policy was damaging children, families and society.
Newly elected Sinn Féin TD Mark Ward said the “normalisation of the housing crisis is not normal”. Taking his seat in the Dáil for the first time after last week’s by-election success in Dublin Mid-West, Mr Ward said for 4,000 children to spend another Christmas in emergency accommodation or for adult children to live in the back bedrooms of their parents’ homes or for three generations to live in the one house, was “not normal”.
“Minister your housing policies have failed, your term as Housing Minister must come to an end,” Deputy Ward said.
“To the two new Fianna Fáil TDs who joined me here today, I have a message for you, you did not get elected to sit on your hands.”
The Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy went on to barely survive the motion of no confidence with TDs voting by 56 votes to 53 against the motion, with 35 abstentions.