Friday 20 April 2018

Kelly canvassing while Dáil debates homeless crisis

Alan Kelly. Photo: Tom Burke
Alan Kelly. Photo: Tom Burke

Kevin Doyle, Niall O'Connor, John Downing

Environment Minister Alan Kelly was last night canvassing in Tipperary while the Dáil was debating a motion on homelessness.

The Labour TD posted a photograph of himself and a group of female canvassers on social media just as the Dáil was preparing to vote on a Fianna Fáil bill.

The Opposition party's motion called on the Dáil to note that there are over 1,600 children and up to 780 families in emergency accommodation and to accept that families and children being placed in hotel rooms rather than proper accommodation "is totally unacceptable". It also criticised the Government for only allocating 10pc of Nama housing stock for social housing.

Fianna Fáil's environment spokesman Barry Cowen hit out at the minister for missing the conclusion of the debate which started on Tuesday night.

"For a long time, it's been clear that Alan Kelly's interest in dealing with the homelessness crisis is wafer thin.

"His decision to cry off from a debate on the issue tonight and instead turn up on social media canvassing to save his seat is a neat illustration of how seriously he's really taking it," Mr Cowen told the Irish Independent.

"Tonight 1,600 children are in emergency accommodation and the minister actually responsible for housing can't be bothered to turn up for a special debate on dealing with it."

In response, Mr Kelly's spokesman said the minister had a long-standing commitment at a business event in Tipperary at 5pm yesterday and as a result would have not made it back to Leinster House in time for the debate which ran from 7.30pm until 9pm.

He said Mr Cowen was "as usual clutching at straws".

The image of Mr Kelly, captioned 'Amongst ladies', showed him in Roscrea around 8pm.

"Minister Kelly has visited more homeless organisations, shelters and emergency accommodation centres than any previous minister, including Fianna Fáil ministers," his spokesman said.

"He made his views known on the Private Members Bill in the Oireachtas on Tuesday night.

"The Government was ably represented by Housing Minister Paudie Coffey in the Dáil."

The spokesman added: "This Government has allocated more resources to help the homeless than Fianna Fáil allowed for in any of their pre-budget submissions during the lifetime of this Government."

Meanwhile, embattled Fine Gael TD Noel Coonan launched a scathing attack on his Coalition colleague as the fallout from the Michael Lowry controversy continues.

At what is likely to be Fine Gael's final parliamentary party meeting of the current Dáil, Mr Coonan, who is also a Tipperary TD, said he believed Mr Kelly's "ego might burst", adding: "He is not my colleague."


And the backbencher voiced his dissatisfaction at Fine Gael ministers who he complained had not mentioned his name in public discussions about the prospects of taking coalition support from Mr Lowry.

The continued failure by Taoiseach Enda Kenny to publicly rule out doing business with Mr Lowry after the general election has caused tensions within both Fine Gael and the Labour Party.

Although Mr Kenny has privately assured TDs that he has no intention of seeking Mr Lowry's support for a future coalition, his refusal to rule out such a prospect publicly has frustrated members of his own party.

Mr Kenny again last night would only reiterate his position that he "does not contemplate" doing business with Mr Lowry.

Senior party sources say Mr Kenny's approach is "calculated" given that there is a doubt over whether Fine Gael and the Labour Party can form a government on their own.

Nonetheless, Fine Gael TDs believe Mr Kenny only has himself to blame for allowing the "damaging" controversy to dominate the news agenda since the weekend.

Irish Independent

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