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O'Brien insists he is no ‘spoofer' as he defends record on housing

Housing minister Darragh O'Brien (PA)
David Young, PA

Darragh O’Brien insisted he is no spoofer as he accused his critics of using the housing crisis for political gain.

The housing minister said the Housing for All strategy was making progress to tackle the acute supply problems in Ireland.

The minister also suggested the Government was set to introduce new measures in this year’s budget to help homeowners dealing with spiralling interest rates.

Mr O’Brien claimed he was operating in the “real world” and attempting to deal with external challenges, such as rising interest rates and soaring construction costs, while opposition parties, he claimed, were trying to convince people there are simple solutions to complex problems.

In an interview with RTE’s Today with Claire Byrne show, Mr O’Brien was asked to respond to critics of his style who portray him as a “spoofer” who overly relies on statistics to defend his record.

“Well, I would completely disagree with them, I’m not,” he said.

“I work very hard at the job that I do.

“I’ve always acknowledged that there are many challenges in housing. It’s not something that one can fix overnight. I love the job that I do. I’m committed to it. This government is committed to it too.

“The most important people are those families who don’t have a home at all and they’re the ones who I’m absolutely focused on.”

Mr O’Brien insisted he was always “really straight and honest with people”.

Affordable housing scheme
Darragh O’Brien said progress was being made to address housing shortages in Ireland (Niall Carson/PA)

“I’ve always been very direct,” he added.

“Some people mightn’t like that style, and that’s fine.

“But I respect constructive criticism, but what I don’t respect is people actually trying to capitalise or use the housing crisis that we have for their own political gain and try to tell people that there are simple solutions to complex issues.

“And most people know that that is not the case. And you know, we won’t be diverted from our course and actually increase in supply for people.”

He added: “When you build more social homes and deliver more social homes last year than we’ve done in nearly 50 years, I think that’s an achievement.

“When you have more first-time buyers buying homes than we had since 2007, I think that’s an achievement too.”

Housing Ireland
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (centre) and housing minister Darragh O’Brien during a recent visit to a housing projects in Delgany, Co Wicklow (PA)

On policy issues, Mr O’Brien indicated that the Government may reintroduce a form of temporary and targeted relief on mortgage interest in this autumn’s budget to combat the impact of rising rates.

“We are looking at this and we’ll be looking at this, we’re bringing forward measures, potentially in the budget this year,” he said.

“We can’t just have a knee-jerk response when everything arises.

“I think if you look at last year and cost of living, some like the main opposition party (Sinn Fein) was calling basically for a budget every month and what happens in that instance is it leads to instability.

“It leads to instability in relation to policy delivery. And I think last winter we got the package right in relation to cost of living. And I’m confident that we’ll get that right in October this year, to be able to help people who’ve seen increases in mortgage (rates).”

The minister said a lack of funding was not an issue when it came to the number of home builds the Government could support each year. He said the main limiting factor was capacity within the construction sector.

“You have to build up capacity to deliver the homes,” he said.

“If I could click my fingers and say we’ll build 50,000 homes this year of course we’d do it, but you need people to build it, you need to have a sustainable way of building the capacity up and making sure we have a sustainable construction sector.

“We’re moving in that direction, momentum is there.”

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