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Social Democrats accuse Housing Minister of misleading Dáil over shared equity scheme

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Darragh O'Brien

Darragh O'Brien

Housing Minister Darragh O'Brien

Housing Minister Darragh O'Brien

Social Democrats Housing Spokesperson Cian O’Callaghan. Picture: Collins

Social Democrats Housing Spokesperson Cian O’Callaghan. Picture: Collins

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Darragh O'Brien

Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien has “misled” the Dáil on the controversial shared equity scheme, according to Social Democrat housing spokesperson Cian O’Callaghan.

In June, the Minister told the Dáil that the scheme has been “passed” and “received approval” by the Central Bank.

The shared equity scheme is a key part of the Government’s multi-billion Housing for All plan and the Central Bank previously raised concerns that it could push up house prices.

However, RTÉ’s Primetime reported last night that the Central Bank has not approved the scheme and that it is still considering how the scheme interacts with mortgage rules.

Deputy O’Callaghan has asked for the Minister to make a statement to the Dáil as to why he “misled” the Dáil.

“Was he aware that in fact, final approval had not been given? I’m calling on the Minister for Housing to make a statement to the Dáil, to answer questions on it and explain why he misled the Dáil.

“It’s not acceptable that the Dáil passed the legislation with the understanding that the Central Bank had approved the scheme.”

Deputy O’Callaghan said that it is “completely unacceptable” that a Minister would come into the Dáil and give information which would later turn out to be incorrect.

“We can’t have a Minister coming into the Dáil saying that this has been approved by the Central Bank when it hasn’t. That’s completely unacceptable,” he said.

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“We need to know, did the Minister actually know or not that the Central Bank hadn’t approved this - it’s very serious if he didn’t know that and it’s very serious if he was giving wrong information deliberately on it.”

“He has misled the Dáil, and that was in advance of the Affordable Housing Bill being passed. We didn’t vote for it, but other parties did and some of them would have voted on the basis of those assurances that he would have given,” he said.

“We can’t have a Government operating on this basis, giving assurances, giving factual information, that is not true.”

Minister O’Brien later repeated the claim that the Central Bank had approved the scheme in an interview with Primetime.

A spokesperson for Minister O’Brien said that in the interview, the Minister referred to an aspect of the scheme which is being designed as an “equity product rather than being a debt on the purchaser”.

“The Minister later clarified this in the interview when he stated that the scheme would not be a debt product. The Minister has repeatedly confirmed the CBI is being used to inform the design of the scheme to ensure coherence with the mortgage measures.”

The spokesperson added that the “operational details” of First Home, the plan which includes the shared equity scheme, is currently being finalised.

Speaking in the Dáil, the Taoiseach said that Minister O'Brien has "never has had an issue" in coming before the Dáil and answering questions.

He said that the Affordable Housing Bill, which includes the shared equity scheme, has already been debated in the Dáil.

"Minister O'Brien has never had an issue in coming before the House and engaging in debate on a range of issues and people can have their disagreements," he said.

In a statement to Independent.ie, the Central Bank confirmed that the Bank "has been considering" the shared equity scheme and how it complies with mortgage rules.

It is understood that the shared equity scheme remains under consideration.

A spokesperson for the Bank said that it will make further remarks about the scheme in November.

"The Central Bank of Ireland has been considering the interaction between the mortgage measures and the First Home affordable purchase shared-equity scheme, introduced under the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage’s ‘Housing for All’ plan.

"The Central Bank intends to communicate further on this issue as part of the regular, annual review of the mortgage measures, due to be published in November 2021," said the spokesperson.

Minister O’Brien was forced to write to the Ceann Comhairle clarifying his remarks after the Social Democrats and Sinn Féin accused him of “misleading” the Dáil over whether or not the Central Bank had given a green light to the shared equity scheme.

A spokesperson for the Minister said that the Minister was referencing the scheme as an equity product and not as a debt on homebuyers.

The spokesperson also said that Minister O’Brien has “repeatedly stated” that details of the scheme are being finalised.

“Minister O’Brien clarified, both in the Dáil this afternoon and in a letter to the Ceann Comhairle that the remarks which he has made in reference to the First Home Shared Equity Scheme relate to the aspect of the scheme whereby, informed by engagement with the CBI, the scheme is being designed as an equity product rather than being a debt on the purchaser.

“He has consistently made this point in response to opposition claims that the shared equity scheme is debt based. It’s not, it’s an equity scheme,” said the spokesperson.

“Through PQs and speeches he has repeatedly stated that the operational details of the First Home shared equity scheme are currently being finalised.”

The spokesperson said that he has previously referenced the scheme being finalised in responses to parliamentary questions and speeches.


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