Friday 30 September 2016

Kevin Doyle: Kelly becomes unstoppable force fighting an immovable object

Published 28/10/2015 | 02:30

Alan Kelly
Alan Kelly

Environment Minister Alan Kelly might be about to answer the age-old question of what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object.

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Fine Gael and the Labour Party have had many spats throughout their almost five years in the corridors of power - but until now there was always a viable compromise at the end of the tunnel.

This time is different. Mr Kelly has presented himself as an 'Action Man' taking on the dark market forces but the Department of Finance isn't for budging.

There is a theory around Leinster House that Fine Gael were so keen on a November election because, apart from the anticipated 'budget bounce', it would also allow them dodge the perennial winter crises of hospital trolleys and homelessness.

Mr Kelly was pivotal in putting a stop to their early march towards the polls, but now he finds himself at the centre of one of those emergencies.

Fixing the housing emergency presents an ideological challenge for the Coalition. Fine Gael and the experts in the Department of Finance value market independence, whereas Labour needs to be seen as the party of the common people. The one thing everybody agreed on in Cabinet is that the housing problem is two-fold.

On one side of the coin there is a major supply issue as society starts to realise that the developers we were keen to run out of town during the downturn may actually be not so bad after all. The other issue is the thousands of families and young people trapped in rented accommodation while prices spiral out of control.

Frustration peaked over the weekend as Fine Gael and some in Labour metaphorically swung for the minister.

By calling them cowards Mr Kelly ensured the row went from shadow boxing to full-on wrestling.

The reality is that the time for fighting has passed.

Mr Kelly claimed yesterday that there was "no package" on the table before the Budget. This reality is there was a 'series of measures' that the Department of Finance were happy to sign-off on. He rebuffed it on the grounds that it didn't go far enough on rent certainty.

After all the rows both sides might see compromise as a defeat - but unless they figure it out homelessness is set to be the story of December - and that's the last thing a Coalition wants coming up to an election.

Irish Independent

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