Friday 6 December 2019

Social Democrats try to spark Christmas election with no confidence motion in Eoghan Murphy

Roisin Shortall speaking to media at Leinster House
Photo:Gareth Chaney/Collins
Roisin Shortall speaking to media at Leinster House Photo:Gareth Chaney/Collins

Kevin Doyle and Anne Marie Walsh

AN ATTEMPT to spark a Christmas election by ousting Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy from office next week has been branded “a stunt” by both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.

The Social Democrats are to place a motion of no confidence in the minister on the Dáil agenda for next Tuesday.

If it were to pass the Government would collapse and an election would most likely occur on Friday, December 27.

Asked whether they believe voters really want to go to the polls at Christmas, Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy said: “Some people do. Some people think they will never get this government out like the woman we met on the doorstep there last week in Clondalkin, where she had two lots of families under the one roof and feels she never gets a day off.”

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Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on a visit to Kilkenny (Niall Carson/PA)
Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on a visit to Kilkenny (Niall Carson/PA)

Ms Murphy and fellow TD Róisín Shortall were accompanied by the party’s two by-election candidates when they announced the motion outside Leinster House today.

The make-up of the Dáil means that the minister’s fate will ultimately be decided by Fianna Fáil who prop up the Government through a confidence and supply arrangement.

Ms Shortall urged Micheál Martin to get behind the move.

“Fianna Fail seems to have recently realised that housing is a major issue. As soon as Micheál Martin started knocking on doors in Cork he discovered it’s a major issue. We’ve been saying it for the last three years.”

However, Fianna Fáil’s housing spokesman Darragh O’Brien said his party will not be voting the minister out of office.

“People need to see this for what is clearly is which is a stunt,” he said.

“I’ve been extremely critical of Eoghan Murphy and the Government. But the reality is that this would mean a general election on Christmas week. We extended confidence and supply to deal with a January 31 [Brexit] deadline.”

Mr O’Brien added: “I don’t see how it would be a responsible move to have an election at Christmas and we would then be trying to put a government together with Brexit looming.”

When asked if he expects Fianna Fáil to abstain on the vote, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said: "I think you'd have to ask Fianna Fáil that question".
"They can speak for themselves," he said, speaking at a conference on workplace equality this morning.

"What I can tell you with absolute certainty is that motions of confidence aren't going to build any houses. However, minister Murphy implementing our plan for housing is delivering houses."

He said over 20,000 new homes have been built this year-more than any year in a decade.

Mr Varadkar said 10,000 social housing units will be added to the housing stock, more than any year this century.

"While there may have been a slow start, and there are reasons for that, things are really getting going again when it comes to house building, he said.

He said the minister should be allowed to continue his work to increase the number of homes. “I have confidence in all our ministers,” he added.

A spokesman for Mr Murphy also called the Social Democrats’ motion “an election stunt”.

“The Social Democrats cannot point to a single piece of legislation they have got support for that would bring solutions to the housing crisis,” the spokesperson said.

“This is pathetic and the Social Democrats would be better using their time seeking support for a constructive solution rather than a stunt that will not pass.”

Sinn Féin said they will vote no confidence in the minister and called on Fianna Fáil's by-election candidate to state their position.

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