Thursday 29 September 2016

SF begins the showboating - while FF wants it both ways

Published 15/06/2016 | 02:30

Fianna Fáil housing spokesman, Barry Cowen, accused Sinn Féin
of blatant opportunism. Collins
Fianna Fáil housing spokesman, Barry Cowen, accused Sinn Féin of blatant opportunism. Collins

We may as well get used to it - because this is really only the start.

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Sinn Féin will showboat as and when it can. It will not pass up a chance to lash Fine Gael as the leader of the minority Coalition.

That done, it will as quickly pivot and turn on its real quarry, Fianna Fáil, which it sees as its main rival.

On that errand, the Sinn Féin message will be variations on the theme of "And you are even worse. You in Fianna Fáil are propping this entire edifice up. You are only pretending to be in Opposition."

This week is a case in point, as Sinn Féin introduced a private members' motion seeking to have rent increases linked to the rate of inflation.

Fianna Fáil's response was to come out swinging - personifying the old maxim that the best form of defence is attack.

Fianna Fáil housing spokesman, Barry Cowen, accused Sinn Féin of blatant opportunism and trying to upstage a special Dáil committee report on housing, which is now just days away from being published. "It is completely opportunistic from Sinn Féin, which doesn't surprise me. The Oireachtas committee is publishing its report on Friday. They should respect that process instead of going down this route. It's gutter stuff," Mr Cowen said.

It gave Fianna Fáil its chance to row in with Fine Gael and vote down the motion tomorrow.

In fairness to Mr Cowen, he has a good point on this occasion - even if the reality is that Fianna Fáil will try to continue hunting with the political hounds, aka the Government, while also running with the political hares, aka the Opposition, for as long as it can.

The fact is that deputies of all parties worked under the quiet chairmanship of Fianna Fáil TD, John Curran. The committee heard from everyone and anyone who had anything to say about housing, homelessness and shelter.

Friday's report, which hopefully will surprise us and lead on to action, is worth waiting for. It is crude showboating by Sinn Féin to try to upstage its contents with this motion.

It must also be noted that the last minister responsible for housing, Alan Kelly of Labour, fought hard for rent curbs. The prospect of linking rent increases to inflation was mooted.

But both the Finance Department and the Attorney General raised serious legal obstacles. Instead Mr Kelly tried for "rent certainty", principally by limiting opportunities for rent increases.

It is expected the upcoming report may return to the issue - but it is suggested that trying to improve tenants' security of tenure may be the main focus.

But it is also likely to look again at the prospect of linking rents to the inflation index or some other pricing indices. It will be an interesting discussion.

On this occasion, Fianna Fáil win out on fancy footwork. Future Fianna Fáil-Sinn Féin rows may not be so easily managed. The games will continue.

Irish Independent

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