Coalition has a duty to end ban on evictions humanely

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar


In politics, but most especially in government, what we think or what we know ultimately matters not a whit. All that is of consequence is what we do. The Coalition was reminded of this again as it stewed in its own juices in a confidence vote on the ending of the evictions ban.

It won easily, but any sense of relief could be brief. The heat and rancour in discussions may have been ramped up, but eviction is an explosive topic and needed more deft handling than the Government has demonstrated of late.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has conceded there is a lot of anxiety and fear as the deadline nears. He is pinning his hopes, however, on most of those who have had notice served on them finding alternative accommodation. But what if he is wrong?

Many might feel queasy about hazarding a wave of hardship when a sufficient social safety net has not been put in place. The loss of one’s home can mean emotional and economic obliteration.

Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl described the heckling and interruptions from both sides during the debate as “disgraceful”, while Mr Varadkar dismissed the Labour Party’s motion as “political theatre, performative anger and performance art”.

One way or another, the 33rd Dáil is unlikely to have heard the last of this issue.

The decision remains one of the Government’s most contentious, and high-risk, in terms of a backlash. Tonight in Ireland there will be people wondering whether they can keep a roof over their head.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said that, over Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil’s time in government, “we have gone from housing crisis to housing emergency to housing disaster”.

She also said the “housing crisis didn’t fall from the sky” and the Government had followed an agenda that “explicitly transferred” its responsibility to deliver housing to the private market. Her criticisms may well be shared by many. Ideally, the energy spent in recrimination and blame would be better channelled into producing deliverable workable solutions.

The more pressing and immediate issue right now, however, is where evicted people will go as emergency housing options have been exhausted.

When interviewed on RTÉ, Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe accepted many more people could now become homeless.

He said local authorities nationally were being given extra funding as a contingency, but their record to date gives little room for confidence.

Mr Varadkar has been adamant that extending the eviction moratorium was not the solution and would make homelessness worse.

He was equally vehement that the solution was the provision of more social housing,

As far as the latter is concerned, he is correct, yet the pace of providing it has been far too slow.

As to the former, the eviction ban could not go on for ever, but ending it comes with a duty to do so as humanely as possible.