Monday 21 October 2019

Editorial: 'Fine Gael will pay the price if it can't fix housing crisis'

Leo Varadkar (PA)
Leo Varadkar (PA)


New years are supposed to be about novelty, fresh starts and frontiers. If the Government had a foundry for panel-beating the dents out of promises that have been overturned, it would be very busy just now. But we can return to that in a moment. It's a tad too easy to outsource all social responsibility to our elected representatives. They are, after all, given their power by us, and if we do not chose to hold them accountable for fissures opening up in society they will skip over them.

Every so often, it is no harm to remind ourselves that equality is not a utopian concept but rather a cornerstone to social cohesion. A necessity, not a privilege.

As some wonder how they will shed the extra pounds acquired over the past couple of weeks, others will be lying awake at night trying to figure out how they can feed their children, or keep a roof over their heads.

Four days before Christmas, Brother Kevin Crowley's centre on Bow Street opened its doors an hour earlier than usual.

There were people lining up for food parcels containing the basics of tea and bread to get them through the week.

In other years they managed to distribute the thousands of bundles from 9am, but such is the level of need the work was brought forward to 8am.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar sounded genuine when he listed housing as the Government's greatest challenge last year.

Unfortunately this national emergency can not be eased with soothing words.

Two years ago, Rebuilding Ireland was unveiled as the solution. It is now alarmingly obvious it is not sufficient to meet the scale of need within any reasonable time-frame. Houses need to be provided at an accelerated rate, but they clearly won't be.

There is a fundamental inequity in standing by as property values soar beyond the reach of hard-working people in a country with no shortage of land or resources.

Whether it is the private sector, local authorities, the Government or most likely all three combined, the time for a Marshall Plan game-changing initiative can no longer be delayed to build homes. If not now, when?

No Government can be complacent with 9,968 people in emergency accommodation. St Vincent De Paul has also reported a surge in calls from people struggling to pay high private rental costs.

Fine Gael has bought itself some extra time with the renewal of the Confidence and Supply deal. But unless there is a radical change in recognising the urgency of the housing crisis, the election expected in 2020 could be cataclysmic if the party persists with its inexplicable insouciance on the issue.

Irish Independent

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