News Editorial

Monday 24 October 2016

Housing too big an issue for political point scoring

Published 21/07/2016 | 02:30

Fianna Fáil housing spokesman Barry Cowen
Fianna Fáil housing spokesman Barry Cowen

The housing and accommodation crisis is too big an issue to be allowed to descend into needless political point scoring.

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While that is not unexpected, the electorate, and particularly those who are depending on a robust response to the lack of housing, will not thank the Government nor the Fianna Fáil party, which is propping it up, if they start squabbling on the issue.

It is clear that Fianna Fáil housing spokesman Barry Cowen has concerns about certain elements of the 'Rebuilding Ireland' plan. It is incumbent on him to sit down with the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Simon Coveney, to thrash out their differences for the sake of those who need accommodation, whether they be private or social renters, 'rough sleepers' or first-time buyers.

Another element that quickly raised its head with regard to social housing was the Not In My Back Yard (Nimby) brigade. As he pointed out in an opinion piece in yesterday's Irish Independent, Mr Coveney does not see the enormous house-building programme delivered through the "large social housing estates" of the past, but through "creating mixed communities" of private ownership, social housing and rental accommodation.

The minister is right and his vision needs to be embraced by planners and the public alike, so that we do not go back to the era of 'them and us.'

The housing plan must get under way soon, with political unity, sustainable planning and mixed communities.

Trade unions must heed Labour Court's rulings

When workers at the loss-making public transport company Dublin Bus submitted a ridiculous claim for a 30pc wage increase, they were clearly emulating drivers at the privately owned Luas, who subjected the general public to unnecessary hardship and inconvenience with a series of strikes earlier this year.

The Labour Court - a statutory body, which includes representatives of the trade unions - has quite rightly thrown out the 30pc demand and recommended a reasonable pay increase of 8.25pc over the next three years.

This works out at 2.75pc a year. Yet Dermot O'Leary, head of the National Bus and Rail Union, has already described this offer as "disappointing" and there is now every indication that Dublin Bus workers intend to embark on industrial action in pursuit of their claim to establish 'parity' with Luas workers. No doubt workers in Bus Éireann, which runs the rural bus network, and Irish Rail are waiting in the wings to make similar claims.

Mr O'Leary added that he had "the utmost respect" for the Labour Court, yet it now seems that his members will reject this pay increase and we are to expect further disruption to public transport in the coming weeks and months.

At a time when workers on the minimum wage may get a 10c an hour increase and many other workers will not get pay increases because of the ravages of the economic crisis, it is nonsensical that workers paid from the public purse are going to hold us to ransom once again.

The Government may have to look at making Labour Court findings binding on workers who are in state or semi-state employment, otherwise what is the point of having a sensible institution like the Labour Court to adjudicate on such claims?

Irish Independent

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