Seanad debates

Friday, 4 June 2021

9:30 am

Photo of Garret AhearnGarret Ahearn (Fine Gael)

I welcome the Minister of State to the Chamber. I thank Senator Fitzpatrick for bringing this very important issue to the floor. The Minister of State knows I have spoken to him numerous times about Irish Water and the challenges which areas have, including my county, Tipperary, with water supply and wastewater treatment, and the challenges that brings for everyone in terms of providing houses. We have so many challenges in building houses, but one could solve all of the problems that have been discussed here. There are large rural towns and villages in Tipperary that one cannot build in because of a lack of water supply and funding in that area. I know there has been a significant amount of funding put in already, but the way Irish Water decides where that money is put is crucial. It must invest in line with the plans of local authorities. It should be in terms of growth and areas of growth.

The other issue which I have never seen happen before is where so many people are being approved for mortgages - more than ever before in the history of the State. Banks are willing to approve mortgages for people to build, but they are not willing to give ordinary builders the money to build the houses. We are in a situation where there are builders who want to build, they have people who have the money to build coming to them and asking them to build, but the builders are not getting any money up front from banks or lenders to build. Until that is solved, we will continue to have a problem.

In rural areas, there are many things being brought forward through the Our Rural Future policy and the encouragement of people to move out of big cities to live in rural Ireland. The other thing we must do something about, which Senator Burke spoke on in a different debate, is the restrictions in planning laws and how they must be eased in order for people to live in rural Ireland. The Minister of State will know about it in Westmeath. There are many people who left at a young age, 18 or 19 years, went to college, worked in Dublin for ten or 15 years and now want to come home. We want them to come back and live in rural Ireland and to spend in our area, but we must relax measures to give them the opportunity to come back. It is not possible for someone to move back into an area, stay there for seven years and then build. We must relax that requirement.

I want to touch on a point Senator Bacik made earlier. I know she is in the middle of an election so we must be lenient in some way, but she said the Government has not delivered on housing at all over the last ten years. It is important to remind people post-Covid that we built more houses in 2019 than we did in the last decade. She said in the Chamber that in the last five years the Government did not deliver on housing. She was quite specific in mentioning how it was the last five years. If one looks beyond five years, it was a Labour Party Minister who was in charge, and it was a Labour Party Minister previous to that who was in charge. If Senator Bacik thinks that Fine Gael, Eoghan Murphy and Deputy Simon Coveney did not deliver on housing to a certain extent, if she thinks we failed in it, what does she think her party leader did when he was in the Department with responsibility for housing?

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