Sunday 16 June 2019

Minister Murphy hits back at 'Trump-like' attacks amid election fears

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy has been criticised
Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy has been criticised

Kevin Doyle, Group Political Editor

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy has vowed to fight back against Opposition attacks which he described as Trump-like.

The minister, who marks one year in office today, is under increasing pressure from both Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin.

Mary Lou McDonald’s party are threatening a motion of no confidence which could spark a general election.

But Mr Murphy defended his record today, citing figures showing 18,000 new homes had come on stream last year.

“We’re a young government, we’re ambitious for the future of our country. Today’s CSO figures confirm that Rebuilding Ireland is working.

“They say we’re not building, that’s not true. They say we’re not tackling vacancy, that’s not true,” Mr Murphy said.

“It’s a kind of Trump approach to doing business that I abhor,” he added.

He lashed out at Sinn Féin who earlier this week paid for a billboard with Mr Murphy’s image and a list of the problems in the housing sector to be driven around Dublin city centre.

“We’re making progress, they’re making posters,” Mr Murphy said.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said he stands firmly behind his embattled minister for housing.

Opposition criticism has targeted Minister Eoghan Murphy on the first anniversary of his appointment. 

Speaking in Madrid today Mr Varadkar said nobody in Government believed that sufficient progress in respect of housing noting the rough sleeper figures and the number of people in their 20s and 30s who are unable to buy a home.

"We are making progress but that progress is not sufficient," he said. 

The Taoiseach said the statistics compiled by the CSO today showing the number of houses built last year are statistics nobody can dispute.

Mr Varadkar also confirmed he believed Sinn Fein were gearing up to table a motion of no confidence in the Government - and may target his housing minister directly. It would be a move that would be "entirely tactical and entirely cynical" he said.

"It's just about undermining the Government and  embarrassing Fianna Fáil. And that's old politics," he said.

There is deep suspicious in government circles that Sinn Féin will seek to oust the minister just before the Dáil is due to take its summer break on July 12.

Mr Varadkar told his party that if this occurs there is a strong likely of an immediate election.

Under the confidence and supply arrangement Fianna Fáil is obliged to back any minister in the event of such a vote.

At a private Fine Gael meeting last night Mr Varadkar said that if a Sinn Féin motion were to fail in a Dáil vote then Fianna Fáil would take “a kicking”.

One source told the Irish Independent: “The Taoiseach put us on alert that there are two ways this can go. Either an election or Fianna Fáil gets a kicking.”

Asked about those comments, Mr Murphy who was not at the meeting, said: “I think what the Taoiseach was doing was speaking to the political opportunism that is being sought here by Sinn Féin.”

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe also came to his colleagues defence today, saying there is “nobody better placed in Dáil Eireann” to the deal with the housing crisis.

“There is nobody more aware of the anxieties and fears and at times of the great misery that people face when they can’t get a home, or can’t get a bed than Eoghan,” he said.

Mr Donohoe added: “Sinn Féin are intent on exploiting the anxiety and worries of people who aren’t in homes or can’t afford homes for political gain.

“The only thing Eoghan is focused on is making their lives better.”


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