He was terribly busy fighting famine in the Horn of Africa, bringing about a two-state solution in the Middle East and trying to end the war in Ukraine.
But fortunately, Simon Coveney is again taking on a prominent role in the real estate crisis. Just the right man for the job given his past experience, knowledge of the market and knowing the right kind of people with expertise to make a difference.
Coveney comes to the rescue in the domestic humanitarian crisis that even President Michael D. Higgins calls a disaster.
He was far too busy on the United Nations Security Council to concern himself with the petty matter of the events at An Bord Pleanála, which revolved around his old friend and sailing comrade Paul Hyde. Coveney appointed Hyde to another state body a decade ago, and his yacht-owning pal was later appointed to the Planning Appellate Body by Fine Gael.
Hyde, the former vice chairman of An Bord Pleanála, now faces criminal prosecution over allegations of unreported conflicts of interest in planning decisions he made. Coveney hasn’t said a word since the controversy broke out six months ago. The planning system is now in shambles.
And so much has happened with Brexit that no one can remember when Coveney was Housing Secretary, boldly pledging to end homelessness by rapidly increasing the supply of housing, particularly social housing. The temporary solution he instituted was the homeless centers, euphemistically called “family hubs” to make them sound tastier and more homey. The number of people now homeless and in need of emergency shelter has risen to a record 10,805, including more than 3,000 children.
But at a time when people can’t remember anything beyond the last topic trending on Twitter, Coveney’s previous record may be as far off as a makeshift IRA bombshell murdering schoolchildren. Fine Gael’s ideological obsession with free housing continues with the party’s new solution, which includes tax breaks for property developers.
At a Fine Gael (per se certainly a misnomer) brainstorming session, Coveney identified tax as an impediment to development and said don’t tax something you need more of. The Fine Gael vice-president cited the UK’s zero VAT rate on new home construction as an example of a good policy initiative. Following any Tory policy comes with a big question mark. But if Simon Coveney thinks developer tax breaks are the solution, then Fine Gael doesn’t seem to be aware of the problem. Apparently, Coveney isn’t being ironic.
As the goals of Coveney’s own housing plan, Rebuilding Ireland, began to drift, Darragh O’Brien, Fianna Fáil’s housing spokesman at the time, described it as a roadmap to failure. “If you take politics out, housing is a crisis. The government is disconnected from this reality. Rents have skyrocketed, there was no affordable housing system, they were not building on government land, and a generation of people are being denied home ownership. They need to stop the announcements and re-announcements and acknowledge their mistakes in this area.”
That was his view five years ago. Darragh O’Brien is now Minister for Housing. Not much has changed. But the government now accepts that housing is the most important social issue facing our country. Well, at least the Taoiseach, it’s not entirely clear where he sits in the Fine Gael hierarchy. O’Brien has another housing plan, Housing for All. All parties in the coalition have joined it. Apparently.
Leo Varadkar will be Taoiseach again in two months. Fine Gael seems to think this is an opportunity to assert her authority over all aspects of government, including the flagship policies already in place. It’s likely that Simon Harris will be next in line, raising his frown to advise Stephen Donnelly on how to handle all those cars in our emergency rooms during the winter months.
Suddenly Fine Gael decided that the housing crisis needed a bit of urgency and is full of clever ideas. Housing for everyone is not happening fast enough. The party that has ruled the country for the past decade and whose own efforts have been so ineffective in dealing with the housing crisis now believes it has a cunning plan. The otherwise sane Heather Humphreys is also on a bloodlust and wants the income limit for social housing eligibility to be raised. O’Brien has just completed a social housing review that aims to say just that. Fine Gael wants to take credit for something that has already happened. It doesn’t matter that they can’t deliver houses for those who are already on the list.
It’s about addressing the Fine Gael base, which is the smallest it has been in 75 years. Not to mention the impression this leaves on the general public of a dysfunctional government that is more interested in scoring internally than finding solutions together. Undermining the pioneering policy and implementation by the coalition minister does not look good. The civil war parties still consider themselves to be each other’s greatest enemies. You are not. The voters have long since brought them together.
When it came to the social problems of housing and health, Fine Gael had its chance in the last 11 years and failed. Indeed, the party has a commendable record in business. At a time when the actions of zealots in the Conservative Party are ruining a once admired nation, a message needs to be sent to the public about the dangers of tinkering with taxes and fiscal policy. There is an opportunity to warn voters to be careful about what they wish for and that without responsible political management, the fruits of their labor can easily turn sour.
Instead, the coalition’s future leaders are coming up with high-profile ideas. Why don’t they just give Sinn Féin the keys to government buildings? It’s what they seem determined to do anyway.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/simon-coveney-doesnt-do-irony-as-fine-gael-undermines-foundations-on-housing-42070978.html Simon Coveney is not ironic – how Fine Gael is undermining the fundamentals for housing