Harris, Donnelly, and Matthews guilty of ‘egregious political act’ says Deputy Brady

Deputy John Brady of Sinn Fein.

Simon BourkeBray People

Sinn Féin TD John Brady has accused his fellow Wicklow deputies of adopting a policy which will “inflict suffering and misery” on their constituents. In the wake of his party’s unsuccessful attempt to reverse the government’s decision to end the eviction ban, Deputy Brady said the county’s other TDs had let voters down.

Referencing Minister Simon Harris TD, Minister Stephen Donnelly TD, and Deputy Steven Matthews, he said, “The decision by the three government TDs, two of whom are government ministers, to vote against the retention of the eviction ban, is a decision that will effectively lead to hundreds of not thousands of renters left homeless in the weeks and months ahead. It is difficult to comprehend the levels of human misery that lie ahead for those that face eviction from April 1.

“What will these three TDs say to the single parents, people with long-term illnesses, people with disabilities, the care-workers, the teachers, the nurses, the people from across the whole spectrum of society who are threatened with eviction?” Deputy Brady asked.

A total of 83 TDs voted in favour of the government’s counter motion to the Sinn Féin proposal to extend the eviction ban until January 31 of next year, with 68 against. And with Wicklow County Council (WCC) having already confirmed there is zero emergency accommodation left available in the county, Deputy Brady said those forced to leave rental properties on April 1 will effectively have nowhere to go.

“Never before have I witnessed such a willing and egregious political act, where a government has wilfully opted to adopt a policy that will inflict such suffering and misery of vulnerable people. And I have witnessed a lot of bad political decisions by these three government parties (Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, Green Party) since I have entered politics,” he said.

However, Deputy Brady and his party are refusing to back down in their determination to have the ban extended and have now introduced a Bill which they hope will save at least some of those in rented accommodation.

“There is still a chance to avoid the impending catastrophe of thousands of renters being evicted,” he said. “Sinn Féin has introduced a Bill in the Dáil to extend the ban on no fault evictions. The legislation is a replica of that passed by the Dáil last October. It would extend the ban to January 31 (2024) with a phased ending of protections to renters through to April 2024.”

Sinn Féin intends to table this Bill for second stage debate and vote next Tuesday.

“We have used the government's own legislation to enable it to be brought forward before the eviction ban is removed at the end of next week,” explained Deputy Brady. “The Bill needs a single amendment, to allow for homeowners who themselves are homeless or at risk of homelessness to access their property. Of course, extending the ban is not in itself enough. Immediate emergency measures are also required.”

Those emergency measures, suggested by Sinn Fein, include the Minister for Housing issuing a circular to all local authorities “instructing them to suspend their normal allocation rules when purchasing a rental property with a HAP (Housing Assistance Payment) or RAS (Rental Accommodation Scheme) tenant in-situ”, extending the tenant-in-situ scheme for renters not eligible for social housing, and a Covid-19 emergency response to increase the supply of social and affordable homes above existing targets.

With a vote on whether to pass this Bill into law due in Dáil Éireann next Tuesday, Deputy Brady has urged the other Wicklow TDs to offer their support to those facing homelessness.

“On Tuesday every single TD will face a choice: to prevent homelessness reaching levels never thought possible or abandoning renters to the mercy of a dysfunctional market,” he said. “Simon Harris, Stephen Donnelly, and Steven Matthews have an opportunity to redeem themselves. To do the right thing for the people of Wicklow. To take the decision to act to put a stop to the inevitably of mass evictions.

“I call upon them to give a commitment to support the Sinn Féin Bill and offer a respite to renters.”