Sunday 16 June 2019

Voters won't punish us for housing crisis - FG

‘People are engaging’: Regina Doherty, Frances Fitzgerald and, back left, Richard Bruton. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins
‘People are engaging’: Regina Doherty, Frances Fitzgerald and, back left, Richard Bruton. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Fine Gael will not be "punished" at the ballot box tomorrow for the housing crisis, Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty has insisted.

A campaign that started off with a focus on Brexit is drawing to a close with all the main parties talking about housing.

Politicians from all parties admit a combination of rental prices, lack of property to buy, the arrival of cuckoo funds and growing homeless figures have ensured housing is the number one issue on the doorsteps.

But Ms Doherty said people are "engaging" with her colleagues rather than preparing to protest vote.

"Yes, people are discussing it with us on the doors which is why we are trying to bring each and every option of houses to people to give them choices.

"I really don't think that people are going to punish us. People are engaging with us. Yes, they are being critical of some policies but that does not mean that there is an anger out there, or there is a want for change," she said.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar's party is aiming to be the first government party to gain seats in a local election for two decades. It also wants to retain its four MEP seats, and possibly add a fifth through Maria Walsh in the Midlands-North-West constituency.

But Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin insisted his party will take that seat, most likely through former agriculture minister Brendan Smith.

Mr Martin said his party had a "very energetic campaign" - but hasn't moved any closer to forcing a general election as a result.

"The Brexit situation trumps everything," he said, adding that he would continue to work towards a fourth budget under confidence and supply.

"My judgment, and that of the parliamentary party, was correct that it would have been reckless to put jobs at risk [by causing a general election]," he said.

But Mr Martin added that the Government "has failed on housing and health and continues to fail".

He said people "are dizzy with the billions that have spread around in the last five or six week".

"Anything that moves, money is being thrown at it," Mr Martin said, referencing the National Children's Hospital, broadband and sports capital grants.

Making a pitch for his candidates in the Midlands-North-West constituency, he argued that Sinn Féin's sitting MEP Matt Carthy has managed to "get away for an entire campaign" without admitting that he's planning to run for the Dáil when a general election is called.

Mr Carthy is selected as the party candidate in Cavan/Monaghan and has refused to commit to five years in Brussels. Sinn Féin didn't hold any media event yesterday.

Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin used his time in front of the microphones to call on "progressive" parties to transfer to each other.

"I've asked without preconditions for Labour supporters to continue to transfer to progressives. That's the Greens, Social Democrats and other progressive independents," he said. "I'm doing it without pre-conditions and I hope other parties will reciprocate."

Labour suffered a major drubbing in 2014 that caused party leader Eamon Gilmore to quickly resign. But Mr Howlin insisted: "The Labour Party is needed. It's needed in local government where we are the party to deliver housing."

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News