Thursday, 30 July 2020
Residential Tenancies and Valuation Bill 2020: Committee and Remaining Stages
Eoin Ó Broin (Dublin Mid West, Sinn Fein)
I would like to respond briefly to the Minister. I had not intended to respond but since the Minister repeated some of the factually inaccurate information he provided on Second Stage, I thought I should do so. I know the Minister does not pay much attention to the powers and functions of the Northern Assembly but if he did, he would know that the assembly does not have the legal authority to introduce the kind of legislation a sovereign parliament does. It cannot, for example, legally ban evictions. Under the current legislative provisions, the extension introduced by my colleague in the North, the Minister for Communities, Deirdre Hargey, was the maximum legally permissible. We would like to see many other protections introduced in the North and the South. However, in the North, these are a matter for Westminster and it is not within our gift to impose them but why let the facts get in the way of a good argument?
At no stage have I suggested that the one-page Bill I published is Sinn Féin's comprehensive response to the crisis; in fact, the opposite is the case. That is a simple Bill to do a simple thing, namely, ban all rent increases for a period of three years. Following lengthy legal consultation, I believe that is constitutionally sound. Sinn Féin has submitted three other Bills that are currently with the Bills Office and a number of policy papers which are far more robust than anything the Minister has introduced or, I suspect, will introduce.
Let us be clear about what is being proposed here. Fianna Fáil's proposal, which other parties will support, will dramatically reduce the protections for renters in the private rental sector to one small, narrow group of people. That group needs protection and I have no difficulty with that.
A woman from County Kerry, which is not my constituency, rang me after the Second Stage debate. Her income has been impacted by Covid-19 but she is not in rent arrears because she has made enormous sacrifices to ensure the rent continues to be paid. She will not get a single protection from this Bill. The day after it is passed, she will be faced with potential rent increases and a possible notice to quit. The Minister can shake his head but that is what this Bill does. If Fianna Fáil is satisfied to remove vital protections from large numbers of tenants who will need them in the coming months, that is fine, but the Minister should not misrepresent what I and my colleague in the assembly, Deirdre Hargey, are doing to justify his poor support for hard-pressed renters.