Tuesday 16 January 2018

Kenny finally promises to appoint a Cabinet Minister for Housing

Mr Kenny told the Dáil he intends forming a new coalition and within three months of that he would publish a 'Housing Initiative'
Mr Kenny told the Dáil he intends forming a new coalition and within three months of that he would publish a 'Housing Initiative'

John Downing and Paul Melia

Taoiseach Enda Kenny is finally promising to appoint a Cabinet Minister for Housing, if he leads the new government.

Moving to win more support for a minority coalition, Mr Kenny has also pledged to publish a housing crisis plan within three months of taking office.

Mr Kenny said this "housing initiative" would be based on the outgoing government's jobs plan which cut unemployment. He also promised to appoint a senior minister responsible for housing issues and he urged all political parties and other interested bodies to collaborate.

"The nature of the crisis will require a collective approach and I would hope that the design of this new initiative will be informed by input from all Oireachtas members and other stakeholders interested in working for solutions," he said.

Fianna Fáil's environment spokesman, Barry Cowen, was scathingly critical on the outgoing administration's efforts. "This Government has failed miserably on housing," he said.

Sinn Fein TD Dessie Ellis said hundreds of families had been rendered homeless since the general election on February 26 while the bigger parties "played footsie under the table" about government formation.

Making her maiden speech in the Dáil, Fianna Fáil Kildare South TD Fiona O'Loughlin said the homeless problem was one of the biggest crises to confront the State in recent history.

Environment Minister Alan Kelly said the election was over and it was time to adopt a more cooperative approach based on facts. He said that as recently as 2012 talk was of an over-supply of housing after the property bubble.

Mr Kelly robustly defended his own party's record on housing, publishing a major plan in October 2014 with ambitious targets.

Meanwhile, despite its future being in jeopardy following the general election, Irish Water is proceeding with its expansion plans. The utility wants to spend €85m building specialist treatment centres to deal with the sludge coming from sewerage treatment plants.

A by-product of treating sewerage, sludge can contain microbiological and chemical contaminants and must be properly treated prior to disposal. Almost 900 million litres of this sludge is produced every year.

A plan to be published today, proposes upgrading 30 plants already in place to provide between 20 and 30 new facilities and develop six new larger 'sludge hub' centres.

Almost all the sludge is spread on agricultural land as fertiliser, with a small amount used to produce renewable energy.

Producing electricity would save €2.5m a year, with disposal savings of €2m.

Irish Independent

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