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Taoiseach Micheál Martin defends call on linking rent to inflation

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Taoiseach Micheal Martin

Taoiseach Micheal Martin

Taoiseach Micheal Martin

TAOISEACH Micheál Martin has defended the Government’s policy of linking rent increases to the consumer price index as “positive move” despite soaring inflation.

Mr Martin said a recent change in the law that now sees landlords only allowed to increase rents in rent pressure zones (RPZs) by the cost of inflation - and not 4pc every two years - was reflective of the economic advice the Coalition has received.

The Irish Independent reported on Tuesday that the Harmonised Index of Consumer Prices (HICP) - a standardised measure of inflation used across the EU - hit a 13-year high in August when it rose to 3pc.

Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien had been promising that the move to link increases with inflation would mean “significantly reducing the level of rent increases in RPZs”.

Speaking in New York, where he is attending the UN General Assembly, Mr Martin defended the policy.

“We need to be fair here. The linking to the rent index was a positive move in the overall context of reducing the level of increases that we had been experiencing,” he said.

“Now we are in the middle of an inflationary spike that has an international dimension to it, largely because of Covid-19 and the interruption of supply chains, and the increased cost of commodities across the globe.

“Now the international jury is out as to how long this will last – is it a temporary spike? And the ECB has been saying to us, at EU leadership level, that they see it as a temporary spike in prices that will reduce in the next while.”

Mr Martin said there was very strong advice to Government that freezing rents by law would be “unconstitutional”.

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Separately, Mr Martin said he had not received an invitation to a controversial commemoration event in Armagh next month which will mark the centenary of partition and the creation of Northern Ireland.

The Fianna Fáil leader said he would give an invitation “consideration” after President Michael D Higgins declined to attend having taken issue with the wording of the event.

Mr Martin reiterated that he respected the President's decision.

“I understand why he took that decision and I don’t believe his bonafides can be called into question,” he said.

The Taoiseach was speaking after several meetings and informal conversations with heads of government at the UN General Assembly in New York. Mr Martin said following his conversations that the strong theme emanating form the UNGA was "we are facing into the abyss on climate change".

"One senses that given recent extreme weather events there is a growing momentum to doing better than we have been on the climate change issue," he said.

He had what he described as a “good meeting” with European Commission President von der Leyen.

An Irish government source said that Mr Martin met with Ms von der Leyen along with the Swedish prime minister Stefan Löfven. They discussed progress with vaccines, COVAX and the need to speed up the global distribution of vaccines, as well as the transatlantic relationship between EU and US.

There was a consensus at the meeting that the US president Joe Biden’s earlier commitment in his UNGA speech to double support to address climate change in developing nations, for developing countries, was a major step forward.

Mr Martin told the media that President Biden was a “committed multilateralist at heart” who had identified Europe as a key partner for the US.

The Taoiseach said that Ireland sees him as “very strategic asset” particularly on issues like climate change, dealing with Covid-19 and defending democracy and freedom of expression around the world.

Mr Martin said he did not ask for a meeting with Mr Biden as it was not appropriate during a UN General Assembly, but said he was sure President Biden would say to the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson that it is important to engage with the EU to resolve issues around the Northern Ireland protocol when they meet at the White House.

Mr Martin also met with the prime ministers of Barbados, Norway, and Bangladesh as well as the presidents of Vietnam, Colombia, Costa Rica, Latvia and Libya.

The Vietnamese president Nguyen Xuan Phuc sought Irish assistance in sourcing vaccines with the Taoiseach saying he would take the request back to the EU and told him to the COVAX system which the EU has committed to reviewing in order to expedite the distribution of vaccines.

He also met with the deputy secretary general of the UN Amina J. Mohammed.



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