Kelly digs in as leaders scramble for rent solution
The Taoiseach and Tánaiste are to intensify their involvement in the Government's housing plan in a bid to defuse the growing Coalition rift.
A plan to beef up the Private Residential Tenancies Board (PRTB) first mooted by Joan Burton at a Labour Party meeting is now being seen as the best compromise.
However, Environment Minister Alan Kelly was last night remaining firm in his belief that a form of rent certainty must be introduced.
"Kelly's position hasn't changed," said a source.
The embattled minister was admonished by Taoiseach Enda Kenny yesterday for describing elements within Fine Gael who he says have been anonymously briefing against him as "cowardly". Mr Kenny said his party has "never had a place for that sort of term".
He said rather than fighting, he would "much prefer to get ministers together with the departments, see the scale of the challenge, look at the options and get on with it".
Mr Kenny said that he will be directly involved in a number of meetings dealing with the housing crisis in the coming days and hoped for a deal "next week". This timescale was seen as too ambitious last night by sources close to Mr Kelly who said talks could take another two to three weeks.
Tánaiste Joan Burton indicated that she is now to take a lead role in the efforts to reach a compromise.
"That is my job as Tánaiste and that is the Taoiseach's job as Taoiseach. I am confident we are going to do that," she said.
"I have had a lot of detailed discussions with the Taoiseach around this issue. It is terribly important for our country."
The Irish Independent understands that giving more power to the PRTB to intervene in tenant-landlord disputes is seen as a middle ground.
The move was mooted by Ms Burton in the wake of the sudden delay in announcing the Government's package and is now gaining support in both Labour and Fine Gael.
"There are ways you can achieve greater rent certainty for tenants that aren't necessarily index-linked, such as extended periods of notice before rents can be raised," explained a source.
The proposal is understood to already have the approval of the junior minister in the Department of Environment, Fine Gael's Paudie Coffey.
Sources close to Mr Coffey said he will be pushing for the PRTB to be given "more teeth" to take on landlords and give binding rulings on rent increases.
"If we have an agency that deals with tenants it makes sense that we use that as the platform for creating a new regulator," a source said.
Fianna Fáil's Willie O'Dea has criticised the delay in finalising a plan, saying: "Alan Kelly constantly gives the impression of having some sort of nervous breakdown in slow motion.
"He lashes out about cowards and people trying to do him down, and in the next breath he say doesn't pay attention to anonymous comment."
He added: "In the meantime more and more people are being forced to live in unsuitable accommodation."