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Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien wins Dáil confidence vote amid heated debate

He pledged. “I will work every hour that is sent” in the remainder of the Dáil term, after the Taoiseach confirmed Mr O’Brien would be holding his portfolio in Government.

Senan MolonyIndependent.ie

The Dáil has voted confidence in Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien by 86 votes to 63.

The Minister spoke passionately at the end of the debate, saying everyone had a role to play in solving the crisis and “not to capitalise on it, not to manipulate it, not to sow division.”

He pledged. “I will work every hour that is sent” in the remainder of the Dáil term, after the Taoiseach confirmed Mr O’Brien would be holding his portfolio in Government.

Mr O’Brien said the Government believed in social housing and building public housing on public land, but “this is a very complex situation and it’s not easy.”

Some in Opposition were painting matters as being soluble “in very simplistic terms,” he said.

Independent TD Marian Harkin abstained in the vote.

Opening a government confidence motion in the Housing Minister earlier, the Taoiseach told the Dáil that the measures taken by Darragh O’Brien are starting to deliver in the accommodation crisis.

Housing Minister Darragh O'Brien

Micheál Martin instead rounded on the Opposition, and in particular Sinn Féin, even though the original motion of no confidence was brought by People Before Profit.

Mr Martin said there were now 20,000 more people working in construction than before the pandemic, while pointing to delays in the planning and permission process.

Darragh O’Brien is “a hardworking and creative minister” who had substantially changed the direction of housing policy, introducing a new era of building social and affordable homes, he said.

He had shown his ability when others only wanted to exploit the problem, he said. “This action is starting to work.”

Mr O’Brien was achieving success “in spite of being directly and personally targeted by Opposition parties and their online trolls.

“He has won every debate on this topic,” he said, while exposing the vacuum that lies behind “the mock anger and book-length emptiness of those who pretend to care about housing, but just see it as another topic to exploit,” Mr Martin said.

Ireland was living in a very populist moment unfortunately, the Taoiseach said. “It is increasingly hard for even the most important issues to be debated in a serious way.”

According to the Opposition’s approach, “until everything has been achieved, nothing can be acknowledged,” Mr Martin said. Similarly, that approach held that there was no such thing as a complex answer.

“There is a clear and widening divide between those in this House who actually want to serve the people and those who are only ever interested in cynical politics,” he said.

"There is a difference between those who believe that ours is a country which has achieved great things, but will still overcome challenges — and those will mount any passing platform to claim that nothing has ever been achieved in what they claim to be a failed state.

“They fake empathy for every group, but systematically refuse to show how their growing cascade of promises can be achieved.

“We are perhaps unique in Europe in having an Opposition which stands on every side of most issues, claiming to support action on climate, but touring the country to find groups who want to hear them oppose every concrete step to combat the emergency’ pretending to support Europe, but systematically voting against it and condemning it at every opportunity.

“And then there is Housing, perhaps where the Opposition trumpets its rehearsed anger most, ands where its actions are almost breathtakingly cynical.

“I think it is important for us all to note that the Opposition is not actually in the slightest bit interested in more homes being delivered.

“The sole reason why we're having this debate is that they thought it would give them another opportunity to attack the Government,” Mr Martin said.

But Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald hit back immediately, criticising “jaded excuses and broken promises,” saying Minister O’Brien had been responsible for “more of the same.”

She said: “We do not have confidence in Darragh O'Brien as housing minister. The opposition in this Dáil does not have confidence in the housing minister and more importantly, the people do not have confidence in the housing minister.

“How could they? How could they have confidence in a housing minister who with a straight face says that we do not have a housing emergency and a minister who has turned to denial when the consequences of his failures are writ large in the everyday lives of people.”

His time in office was “two and a half years too long,” and “in any other walk of life he would have been sacked by now.” People who were doing everything right still cannot put a secure affordable roof over their heads, she said.

“It's been three long years since the last election. And you said that you would be the Government to fix housing — you sang that from the rooftops.

“You spent those years telling us that housing is the number one priority for Government? Well, if that were true, we should have seen action, ambition and urgency from Minister O'Brien. But have we seen those things? No, we have not.”

Ms McDonald said there had been only “abject failure from a tired Government and a housing minister clearly out of his depth.’

She said: “Darragh O’Brien has simply recycled the types of policies that got us into this mess in the first place, putting the interests of big developers ,wealthy investors and corporate landlords ahead of those in housing need every time.”

The minister was just the latest in a long line of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael housing ministers who were “wedded to the belief that, in the end, the market will solve the emergency.”

It was the people who had to live with the dire consequences of that approach. she said.

“Records house prices, record rents, record homelessness. That's the reality of this Government's housing legacy. That's Darragh O’Brien's legacy as housing minister.”

She criticised the “gaslighting of Opposition TDs,” with the Tánaiste telling desperate young people that the grass isn't always greener abroad.

“You would imagine that when faced with such a social catastrophe, Government should respond with ambitious social and affordable housing programmes,” she said.

A common refrain from the Government was that housing can't be solved overnight. Well, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have had over a decade to solve housing, and you've only succeeded in making things worse.”


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