Republic of Ireland news

Government comfortably wins Dail motion on eviction ban

Eviction graffiti in Dublin (Niall Carson/PA)
Gráinne Ní Aodha, David Young and Cillian Sherlock, PA

The Government has survived a Sinn Fein motion that called for the extension of an eviction ban which is due to expire at the end of the month.

The Sinn Fein motion had called for the ban to be extended until January next year.

The coalition’s countermotion, which outlined schemes and policies to support both renters and landlords, was backed by 83 TDs, with 68 voting against.

There were no abstentions.

Green Party TD Neasa Hourigan was among those who voted against the Government.

The victory comes after the Government supported the Regional Independents’ amendment to the countermotion.

Ahead of the vote on the Regional Independents’ amendment, Labour TD Ged Nash asked: “How much has it cost the Taoiseach to buy the votes of the Regional Independent Group?”

“The Dail is entitled to know what this will cost the taxpayer.”

The measures pushed for by the Regional Independent Group included the removal of barriers for older people in long-term care who wish to lease out their homes, the extension of the rent-a-room scheme to include people on social welfare payments and a tax relief scheme for small landlords to be introduced as part of Budget 2024.

Five members of the group – Michael Lowry, Denis Naughten, Cathal Berry, Sean Canney and Matt Shanahan – voted with the Government, as well as Rural Independent TD Danny Healy-Rae.

Another member of the Regional Independents’ group, Wexford TD Verona Murphy, voted against the Government.

She had requested a reduction in housing densities to allow for “viable” developments and to activate planning permissions.

An amendment tabled by Aontu TD Peadar Toibin, which called for evictions to be prohibited if a tenant is pregnant, has a terminal illness or has a disability, was defeated by 72 votes to 78, with one abstention from Ms Hourigan.

The temporary prohibition on no-fault evictions, which was introduced at the end of October last year as part of measures responding to the cost-of-living crisis, will run out at the end of March as originally intended.

While critics of the move claim it will result in the current record levels of homelessness soaring even higher, the Government has insisted that prolonging the measure will see more landlords leave the rental market, reducing an already low supply of accommodation further.

Taoiseach visit to the US
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the Government is ‘built to last’ (Niall Carson/PA)

Responding to another round of criticism from opposition TDs during Leaders’ Questions in the Dail on Wednesday, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar highlighted the last government he led had been a minority administration.

“It lasted for a lot longer than anyone thought it would,” he said.

“There have been times in this Dail where this Government didn’t have a majority and yet we’ve won the votes, and won them by clear margins, and we will do so again today.

“So, I can reassure you that this Government is built to last.”

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald said the Government was choosing to escalate the housing crisis and make people homeless.

“You say that nothing would change in the time that an extension to the eviction ban would buy,” she said.

“In reality, is Government admitting that you won’t tackle the housing emergency with the urgency it requires, you’re conceding that you’re out of ideas, that you’ve thrown in the towel?

“The policies of Fine Gael and Fianna Fail have created and deepened the crisis. Tens of thousands trapped in a private rental nightmare living with crushing insecurity, with no hope of getting a deposit together and no real chance of buying their own place.

“A generation locked out of home ownership by the failures of government and people have lived with this crisis for far too long. They’ve had enough of the excuses.

“They know that housing can be fixed, but it will not be fixed by a tired, jaded Government that has thrown in the towel.”

Mr Varadkar accused Mrs McDonald of deliberately “stoking up” fears among renters by suggesting all those served with an eviction notice would be unable to find alternative accommodation.

Social Democrats leadership
Holly Cairns said lifting the ban was inexplicable (Brian Lawless/PA)

He added: “It is our view that extending the eviction moratorium to the end of January, the depths of winter, which is Sinn Fein policy, will just make things worse. That’s not a solution.”

The Taoiseach said Sinn Fein had supported the terms of the prohibition when it was debated in the Dail last October, noting it had the March 31 cut-off date incorporated at that point.

He accused the party of changing its stance and putting down a motion that it knew was non-binding and could not achieve anything.

“It’s a show motion from showboaters,” he said.

Social Democrats leader Holly Cairns branded the decision to lift the ban as “cruel” and “inexplicable”.

She said the housing crisis was a “societal catastrophe” in Ireland.

“Taoiseach, your decision to lift the eviction ban, the only protection for thousands of people against homelessness, seems inexplicable,” she said.

“People do not understand why any Irish government would make a conscious and deliberate choice to vote for mass homelessness.

“But, placed in the context of so many years of Fine Gael’s bad decision-making, perhaps it’s not so surprising.

“You’ve never made the right decisions on housing, why would we expect you to start now?”

Republic of Ireland news