DARRAGH O’Brien will remain housing secretary after December’s cabinet reshuffle, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has confirmed as he insisted there was no alternative to the government’s housing policy.
In the wake of record homelessness figures showing 10,805 people in shelters in August, Mr Martin vigorously defended the coalition’s policy at the start of the Fianna Fáil ard Fheis in Dublin on Friday.
“I think Housing for All is the only substantive policy document. I urge you to find another political party in the country, it’s the only detailed, comprehensive strategy for housing in this country,” he said.
“What is the alternative they are producing? I haven’t seen anything of substance from any non-government political party in this country on housing. I’ve seen slogans, I’ve seen soundbites, but I haven’t seen substance.”
Mr Martin said that Mr O’Brien had “worked flat out” and when asked if he would be fired from his role in December’s reshuffle, the Fianna Fáil chair said: “Not at all, no.”
Mr Martin said there were “additional presentations”, including new arrivals from other European Union countries, which he claimed had contributed to the sharp rise in homelessness.
“Thousands of people emerge from homelessness every year. It’s not always the same people who are homeless,” he said.
“So there are new ideas, newcomers to the country, homeless people from the European Union, who of course have to be provided with housing.
“So there are always new arrivals in the homeless situation, which is not the case, we are obviously not happy about that, we will do whatever we can to deal with the increasing numbers.”
He told RDS reporters that the government is not satisfied with the situation and that if necessary, the state will purchase and rent premises through local authorities. He said 25,000 homes would be completed this year.
“Basically, we need more care on the housing issue and we need to get more care on the housing units as soon as possible,” he said.
Mr Martin defended the lack of new measures for landlords in the budget announced on Tuesday, saying some of the measures under consideration would have “unintended consequences”.
He said a ban on evictions outside of a public health emergency like Covid-19 was not constitutionally possible. The Taoiseach also said people should be “very careful” before they start objecting to new housing developments, saying it is “luxury that we cannot afford in the country”.
Meanwhile, Mr Martin suggested the EU deal for a windfall energy tax and revenue cap was likely to fetch “a few billion” for Ireland, which would represent “extra help” next year.
“It’s complex and that’s why you have to be cautious about the energy market and that’s why we’re going to take a little more time to look at the fundamentals of demand in terms of the ratio of say gas to renewables in terms of the price issue,” he said.
“But in the short term, we need to make sure we can take steps to ensure we get some of that revenue, that extraordinary revenue, that they deserve. So we will check that, we would aim for the best we can get.”
Asked if this will be his very last Ard Fheis as Taoiseach, Mr Martin insisted “not at all”, adding that after the next election Fianna Fáil will be “in the mix” to return to government.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/politics/darragh-obrien-will-remain-in-role-after-cabinet-reshuffle-as-taoiseach-says-theres-no-alternative-to-government-housing-policy-42030889.html Darragh O’Brien will remain in office after the cabinet reshuffle as Taoiseach says there is no alternative to government housing policy