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Super-Alan homes in on his mission to save the world


Ministers Alan Kelly and  Paudie Coffey
Picture: Mark Condren

Ministers Alan Kelly and Paudie Coffey Picture: Mark Condren 26.11.2014

Ministers Alan Kelly and Paudie Coffey Picture: Mark Condren 26.11.2014

When it comes to certain phrases, the Taoiseach resembles a small determined terrier which takes a fancy to a particular trouser-leg and promptly attaches himself to it with gusto.

And one such mantra is his unvarying response to any suggestion from the Opposition, the media or interested members of the citizenry that the Coalition may remove its collective paws from the levers of power and call the general election far sooner than it's constitutionally obliged to do so.

Au contraire, his government "will serve its full term until Spring 2016," chirps Enda without equivocation or hesitation every single time.

But the trouble is that his dogged conviction isn't convincing everyone. Although the battle-drums are still silent, politicians of all stripes are on a quiet war footing in case the Taoiseach takes an early jaunt to the Aras.

Even the Labour leader is keeping a beady eye on Fine Gael troop movements - yesterday Joan Burton admitted her party "is getting ready for a general election" (although she stuck to the official script by adding that the Coalition would serve its full term).

And well might the Tanaiste be watchful, given that a succession of opinion polls suggest that (on current form) the outcome for her party won't be pretty, regardless of whether the big day is in 2015 or 2016.

But Joan and her troubled team need not fret - Superminister is on the case. Alan Kelly is strapping on his cape, sporting his underpants over his pinstriped suit and is poised to fly to the rescue of his party now trapped at the bottom of a deep dark poll.

Last week the Environment Minister unveiled his (well, the Government's) plan to quench the raging fires over the water charges, when he confidently informed a shouty Opposition in the Dail that he wanted his legacy "to be one of achievement, not destruction".

However, this was only Part One of Superminister's mission to succour the People of Ireland whilst simultaneously snatching Labour's smouldering posterior out of the electoral fire. Having sorted out Irish Water to what will surely eventually be universal and clamorous acclaim from a grateful nation, Alan has now turned his superpowers to transforming the wojus state of social housing.

This is a genuine and countrywide crisis, with 90,000 households currently on the housing list. The number of homeless children has reached hair-raising levels - over 800 children were made homeless in the first 10 months of this year.

The perilously dilapidated state of social housing programmes was studiously ignored for years - and hence the current mess. But Alan has swooped in to clean it up.

And he revealed his master plan at a press conference in his well-appointed departmental Batcave in the Custom House. He was eager to impress upon the assembly the importance of the occasion. Songs would be sung about it (but hopefully not by FAI boss John Delaney).

"To be frank, I'm unlikely to have a more important day in my time in this office. This is by far I would reckon the most important announcement that we've made here because it's the most comprehensive housing strategy in the history of the State," he declared.

Earlier in the morning, Alan and his Environment sidekick, junior minister Paudie Coffey, had visited a new social housing development in Inchicore where they had presented a woman with keys to her new home. "To see the faces of those who now have fabulous homes, it would inspire you to do more for the future, because these people are so happy," he explained.

Evidently still basking in the glow of her understandable gratitude, Alan got quite carried away. "Let's be clear - this is the most important announcement we're going to make as a government, certainly in this department. It's probably one of the most important announcements we'll make as a government, full-stop."

And it certainly is a massive undertaking, with the minister pledging that with this six-year project to build 35,000 social housing units at a cost of €3.8bn, "we're going to clear waiting-lists for social housing in this country by 2020". And what's more - the massive building project will provide 29,000 jobs in construction.

Alan could foresee a rosy future. "It was my ultimate ambition to deliver this strategy, it was the principal reason why I wanted this department," he confessed.

He was bristlier than Movember when questions flew from the ingrates of the fourth estate about the nuts-and-bolts of the scheme - given the urgency of the problem, where and when would the units be built, how would rents be controlled, and so forth - but nonetheless dutifully answered all queries.

A Superminister's work is never done.

Irish Independent