FF housing attack sparks election fears
Fianna Fail has this weekend heightened the prospect of an early general election by launching a scathing attack on the Government's housing policy.
The party's housing spokesman, Barry Cowen (inset), has insisted Fianna Fail's housing proposals should "now not only be seen as genuine offers of solutions to government woes" but instead be "interpreted as alternatives" to Fine Gael policy. "I had hoped we'd go to the polls in an election after having made sufficient progress on housing," Mr Cowen told the Sunday Independent.
He said he also hoped Fianna Fail would be able to "convince the electorate" that Fianna Fail made a "positive contribution" to the housing crisis and were a responsible political party that put the country first. Mr Cowen said record revenue figures should allow the Government to make progress on the housing and homelessness crisis.
"But yet here we are, record failures in housing provision, record figures in homelessness," he added.
Mr Cowen's intervention has sparked fears in Fine Gael that Fianna Fail will use the housing crisis to force an election in the coming months.
"Fianna Fail don't like how we are doing in the polls but if they try to call an election on housing people will see through it," the source said. The source added that the Government would release "positive" housing statistics this week.
However, Sinn Fein is also ratcheting up attacks on the Government's housing policy. Before Christmas, Sinn Fein housing spokesman Eoin O Broin said Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy should resign if he does not get a handle on the crisis. Last week, Mr O Broin said the minister was "clearly failing" to resolve the crisis.
He told the Sunday Independ-ent Sinn Fein has no plans to table a motion of no confidence in Mr Murphy but added: "That may change if he doesn't start doing things differently."
Mr Cowen said Fine Gael "lacked urgency big time" on housing and had relied on "conventional methods" pushed by civil servants and local authorities.
"Many councils have lost the expertise necessary to drive social house building from within. Others are lazy and happy to collect weekly wage packets whether there be a boom or bust. Both the department and local authorities are now immune to criticism and fend it off nonchalantly," he said.