Tuesday, 8 November 2022
Housing for All: Statements (Resumed)
I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Noonan, to the House. I thank the Minister of State for being here for the debate tonight on housing. I commend the Minister and the Ministers of State in the Department on their work on housing. I also put on record my appreciation of the previous Minister, Eoghan Murphy, who was a very good Minister in an extraordinarily difficult time. In many ways, the developments being opened today were planned, commenced and begun in his time. I also commend my colleague, the environmental spokesperson in the Seanad on the Fine Gael side, Senator Cummins, on his endeavour, commitment, and work, as well as his mastery of the brief. If I heard Senator Gavan correctly, he called him a comedian. Then Senator Gavan must be a magician performing a three-card trick, because his party's record up North is different to that down here and their record in local authorities across the country is extraordinary. I will tell Senator one thing; they will not bluff the people any more. It is unlike the old days when the three-card trick lads were going to matches or fairs. This is far too serious to be coming in here and making remarks about comedians.
The housing issue is a generational issue. It was faced back in the 1960s. We faced it with the National Building Agency, NBA, developments. We faced it in the 1970s and we will face it again into the 2000s. Let us not pretend that we do not have an issue. There are people today who are suffering and who are not where they should be. Collectively, our job is to ensure that those people are in adequate, proper, and suitable accommodation. The key words are "housing for all". In my office and in my work I do not differentiate any person. The person coming into me who is looking for a social house, an affordable house or help with a mortgage to buy is the exact same. To be clear, this is the Fine Gael record. We are not the ogres being painted by some. The proof of that is in the budgets over many years, where we increased the budget.Thankfully, because of the prudence of Fine Gael in government and now with our partners in the Green Party and Fianna Fáil, we have a budget for housing that will deliver and can deliver. However it is about time we got away from the cynical sound bite of some who think they can do a three-card trick and procure housing and houses. Then there is this thing of how we are pro-landlord, pro-developer and pro-vulture fund; we are not. We are pro-housing people. Let us not stigmatise and demarcate people in this House or in our politics. We have enough of that in other parts of the world where we are creating them and those or those who have and those who do not have. What I want to see happen is that the action plan is developed in order that we can see the Land Development Agency deliver and can see local authorities, in partnership with Government, procuring, building, and housing people. That is why I want to see this Government succeed. It is not because of a political motivation but because we all know friends, family members, relations, neighbours and fellow workers who are struggling with rent or getting mortgages or being able to get on to the housing ladder. That is why tonight's debate is important.
We need also to look at how we can tackle the revitalisation and regeneration of cities and towns. I would love for the Ministers to come to Cork city and look at some of the derelict properties and vacant sites and the living over the shop scheme and how we can for example incentivise the likes of Barrack Street or North Main Street in Cork. I accept there is a myriad of reasons properties lie idle and are in dereliction. To be fair to people like Frank O'Connor in Cork who is highlighting issues and with whom I may disagree with on some points but agree on others, we need to look in a holistic way at how we can ensure we regenerate and revitalise our cities. I know we had the urban regeneration fund in Cork but there is more to Cork than the docklands. It is an important flagship project but I am a Corkonian, I love my city and I see Cork being the island as well, more than just the docklands. If the Minister of State is familiar with Cork, he will get my drift.
To conclude, we have a challenge to meet and there is an obligation on all of us to do so. Yes, the people can judge us politically on that but let us not tell the people that nothing is happening. Things are happening. If we wanted a political debate - and we are in a political chamber - let us compare and contrast with the record of my colleagues in Sinn Féin in the North in particular and the way in which they have been in government. I accept power-sharing has stalled but they are still there and I would like to have an honest debate on that. I thank the Minister of State for being here. I have great admiration for him for doing a good, quiet job in a very strong way in his Department, as are the other Ministers, the Minister of State, Deputy Peter Burke, and the Minister, Deputy Darragh O'Brien, and I thank them for that. This is a generational issue and we would be neglecting our duty if we did not prioritise it, as we have done through our budgets and our actions. I know we have a lot to do and I accept that but I thank them for the debate and thank the Acting Chair for letting me speak.