McDonald urges all TDs to back motion to extend ban on evictions

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has accused Sinn Fein of exploiting people’s fears over homelessness.

Sinn Fein Party leader Mary Lou McDonald has urged all TDs to back a motion to extend the evictions ban (Brian Lawless/PA)

By Jonathan McCambridge, PA

Every TD in the Dail has been urged by Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald to back a motion to extend the eviction ban until the end of January 2024.

Speaking during leaders’ questions in the Dail, the Sinn Fein president said the proposed Bill would “buy time” for the Government to introduce measures to ease the housing crisis.

But Taoiseach Leo Varadkar accused Mrs McDonald of trying to exploit people’s fears over homelessness and said the Government would introduce an amendment when the Bill is debated later on Tuesday.

The Government has decided the evictions prohibition will run out at the end of the month as scheduled, despite facing calls from homelessness campaigners and opposition parties to extend it.

While critics of the move claim it will result in more people becoming homeless, the Government has insisted prolonging the measure will see more landlords leave the rental market, reducing an already low supply of accommodation even further.

The Sinn Fein Bill before the Dail tonight will extend the eviction ban, it will buy time for your Government to use emergency powers

Mary Lou McDonald

Mrs McDonald told TDs that a report had been presented to Cabinet on Tuesday, stating that thousands of homes could be built on state owned land.

She said: “For years we have said building public homes on public land is the answer to the housing crisis, but you didn’t want to know.

“This report lands on your desk three days before you lift a vital protection for renters, three days before you escalate a housing crisis that is already out of control, three days until you and your Government choose to increase homelessness.

“The clock is ticking for those whose eviction notices kick in from April 1.

“You made this decision without putting any adequate planning in place and you still refuse to answer the fundamental question: where are people to go?”

Mrs McDonald added: “It doesn’t have to be this way – we have one last chance to stop thousands from losing their homes.

“The Sinn Fein Bill before the Dail tonight will extend the eviction ban, it will buy time for your Government to use emergency powers to ramp up the delivery of social and affordable homes and crucially to expand emergency accommodation.

“I am asking every TD to back this Bill. Don’t vote to evict your own constituents into homelessness.

“But it shouldn’t come to a vote, I ask you to reverse your decision before it is too late.”

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said 50,000 new tenancies were created in Ireland last year (Niall Carson/PA)

Mr Varadkar told TDs that 50,000 new tenancies were created in Ireland last year.

He added: “That is the answer to your question where people will go: new tenancies.

“What you are doing is trying to exploit people’s fears and anxieties and fuel them, when you should be trying to reassure people and help them.”

He said the Government would put down a “reasoned amendment” to the Sinn Fein Bill stating what it had done in the last few months and what it intended to do in the future.

Referring to the Sinn Fein motion, he said: “It might be a response to the crisis but it is not a solution to it.”

Mrs McDonald said: “Our Bill buys your Government time to do what you need to do. The demonstrable, unanswerable evidence of your absolute failure to provide housing, your failure to protect renters, the evidence of that is everywhere to be seen and felt.

“You have comprehensively failed, amongst all of your bluster, to answer the one question that matters, where do they go?”

The Taoiseach said the Sinn Fein Bill would “help some people, but hurt plenty of others”.

Sinn Fein’s housing spokesperson said there had been a “significant drop” of almost 20% in commencements over the last 12 months.

Speaking outside Leinster House, Eoin O Broin made a “final appeal” to independent TDs to support the party’s Bill.

“Do not vote to allow homelessness to increase from this weekend, do not vote to send people into uncertainty,” he said.