Tuesday 27 September 2016

New government needs a Minister for Housing

Published 08/03/2016 | 02:30

The notion of even getting on to the bottom rung of the property ladder is a step too far for many. Stock image
The notion of even getting on to the bottom rung of the property ladder is a step too far for many. Stock image

When the country eventually gets a government, after what promises to be a long, drawn-out process, it is imperative the then Taoiseach appoints a specific Minister for Housing.

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And not some partisan figure more interested in preening populism than delivery. What's required is a substantial figure like Richard Bruton in Fine Gael or Willie O'Dea in Fianna Fáil, with the ability to assess the problem in its entirety and deliver on solutions.

And the problems are multi-faceted. Various sections of society now find themselves locked out of the housing market.

The notion of even getting on to the bottom rung of the property ladder is a step too far for many.

The dysfunctional state of the market means there is, at once, both a severe shortage of available housing, a dramatic demand for anything available and an inability for buyers to raise the necessary equity.

The presence in the rental market of those who would normally expect to own their own home is driving up prices and pushing out those at the bottom end into homelessness.

The Central Bank's one-size-fits-all policy on deposits and incomes for first-time buyers has merely made matters worse. The regulator says it is independent. The government says the regulator is independent. The public just want a functioning market. What's required is joined-up thinking with a single minister in charge of all aspects of the most vital issue facing the new government.

Back in November, this newspaper called for the appointment of a specific Minister for Housing: "The absence of a designated Minister for Housing and Infrastructure means housing policy has been haphazard, ill thought-out and uncoordinated."

Over the past four months, the problem has intensified. When the last resort of providing prefabricated housing can't even be delivered upon, then it's time to admit the management of the crisis is itself in crisis.

Legal world mourns the passing of a colossus

A colossus is a person of outstanding importance or ability: it is a term that is used sparingly to describe the living or the dead. However, it is a term that is more than apt to describe, as Chief Justice Mrs  Justice Susan Denham has, the life, achievements and influence of her Supreme Court colleague Mr Justice Adrian Hardiman who died suddenly yesterday.

A fearless, peerless advocate, the Senior Counsel - who was appointed directly from the bar to the Supreme Court 16 years ago - developed an enormous legacy not only in the legal world, but also in the fields of history, politics, media, arts and culture.

Judge Hardiman's influence, like his epic arc of extra-judicial interests, extended beyond the reach of the Supreme Court.

However, it is his trenchant defence of the Constitution and civil liberties, which protected the rights of countless, vulnerable citizens from the abuse and misuse of State authority, for which he will be remembered most.

Adrian Hardiman secured many victories in his distinguished legal career, but it was conviction and his powerful voice of dissent at critical times that made him a true colossus.

Irish Independent

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