Republic of Ireland news

‘No apology was sought' from campaigner over evictions comment – Varadkar

(Brian Lawless/PA)
Cillian Sherlock and Gráinne Ní Aodha, PA

The Taoiseach has said that an apology was not sought from a homelessness campaigner who claimed that the housing minister had been overruled on wanting to extend the eviction ban.

Peter McVerry apologised to Leo Varadkar after claiming he had overruled Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien on extending the temporary moratorium on no-fault evictions.

Mr Varadkar had denied the allegation.

It is understood Mr Varadkar’s office got in touch with Fr McVerry’s office to “set out the facts as they happened”, but he stressed that no apology was sought.

Speaking to RedFM’s Neil Prendeville Show, Fr McVerry accepted the Taoiseach’s denial as “true”.

“The phrase I was given was that the Taoiseach had overridden the minister. In light of the Taoiseach’s denial, which I accept as true, I believe that that phrase was unfortunate and inaccurate – suggesting as it does a conflict or dispute between the Taoiseach and the minister.

Darragh O’Brien and Leo Varadkar
Darragh O’Brien and Leo Varadkar (Brian Lawless/PA)

“So whatever the circumstances leading up to the decision to end the ban, which are now irrelevant as the decision has been made, I accept that the minister along with the rest of the Cabinet and the Taoiseach made the decision together to end the ban.”

Fr McVerry said this was both a clarification and an apology to the Taoiseach.

He said he wanted to put an end to the dispute as it is a “distraction from the real issue of where do people go when they are evicted”.

Responding to the comments, Mr Varadkar said “there was no apology sought”, but clarity was offered because “what was said was not true”.

“I just want to say that no apology was necessary,” he told reporters on Wednesday afternoon.

“There’ve been many times in the past when I’ve been given false information and in good faith I’ve believed it to be true and I’ve used it in the media and then found out it wasn’t true and I’ve had to retract on it. So I understand that these things can happen. Certainly, I’m not upset about it at all.

“I do want to say that Peter McVerry is somebody that I respect a lot, one of the first people I met when I was reappointed as Taoiseach.

“We work in lockstep to provide social housing, something that Peter McVerry said which is 100% true is the only medium to long-term solution to homelessness is a lot more social housing.”

He said that the deficit of social housing was “huge”, and that he was working with Mr O’Brien and Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe on changing those targets.

Mr Varadkar added that he could not comment on the Cabinet discussion on lifting the eviction ban, but added: “I can say that the decision was unanimous, there was no vote on it.”

Earlier this week, Fr McVerry said the ending of the temporary moratorium on no-fault evictions is the “worst decision” the Government had made.

More than 4,300 notices to quit were recorded in the final three months of 2022, latest figures from the Residential Tenancies Board show.

This compares with 4,741 issued between July and September while the data for the first three months of 2023 has yet to be released.

“We have a tsunami of misery coming down the road,” he said.

Irish Labour Party leader Ivana Bacik (right) discusses evictions outside Leinster House in Dublin with Labour TD Aodhan O Riordain
Labour Party leader Ivana Bacik discusses evictions outside Leinster House (Cillian Sherlock/PA)

Labour Party leader Ivana Bacik has renewed a call to Government to reintroduce the temporary moratorium on no-fault evictions.

Ms Bacik also called for the publication of the Attorney General’s advice on the eviction ban.

“It’s very unlikely that the Attorney General would have said categorically that they couldn’t extend the ban for a short term,” she said.

“Was there any legal basis for the lifting of the ban decision, or was it in fact made purely politically?”

Labour TD Aodhan O Riordain said the announcement of a child poverty initiative from the Department of the Taoiseach “rings incredibly hollow” in the context of the ending of the eviction ban.

“They do feel strangely timed and they do ring incredibly hollow when you realise just the statistics and the misery and the uncertainty and the insecurity that’s now being heaped on so many vulnerable families,” he said.