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Anti-Evictions Bill 2018: Second Stage [Private Members] (Continued)

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 976 No. 5

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath] It was brought forward because the time for piecemeal and clearly ineffective solutions to the mortgage crisis had passed. As stated, the original Bill was sponsored by Deputy McGuinness, Senator Norris and myself. It has been significantly revamped in line with the Standing Orders of the Dáil. The problem is that it was a money Bill, but, in fairness, we looked at it again with Fr. McVerry and many others and tried to organise something. I hope the version of the Bill before the House will pass Second Stage.

We have tabled endless Private Members' Bills and motions. One of our motions on An Post was passed unanimously by the Dáil. The wording was agreed by the Minister and accepted but nothing was done about it, while post offices continue to close. The same is happening in the context of housing. We are wasting a lot of time in here. If words could build houses, we would build many of them and fewer people would be homeless. Will the Minister of State try to engage with the Opposition? The various groups have ideas and come at matters from different angles. They want to help resolve the housing crisis.

Deputy Healy also introduced a Bill recently. We are all trying to do our best but there is a savage inertia in the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government. County and city councils have completely lost their way in terms of building houses. They built them in the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and the noughties but then everything crashed and we cannot get the process restarted. We have announcements of modular schemes and other approaches but nothing is happening. The Minister of State, Deputy English, keeps making announcements and then regurgitates them a year or two later. We turned a sod recently at Glenconnor in Clonmel. That was the second time a sod was turned in two and a half years. I do not think the work there has commenced yet. The project is welcome, although it only involves a small number of houses, perhaps up to 16. We must get small builders and others involved in construction. We must deal with evictions, which are horrific. There is no place for them in modern Ireland. There was one yesterday in Roscommon where, again, thugs from outside the jurisdiction arrived on behalf of a bank. They terrorised an old woman and threw her out on the road. That is disgraceful. I call them a third force militia. They have no place on this island. We must have protections for people. That is why I support the Bill.

I fundamentally disagree with some of what has been said about landlords. We cannot demonise all landlords and state that they are bad. However, we must deal with the situation whereby people are being forced out of their homes. Let us look what has happened with Permanent TSB. A very sick man who is a soldier and whose wife is on sick leave due to stress discovered this week that their loan has been sold on. They were in an arrangement at the request of the bank and were honouring it. I heard some murmurings today that such arrangements will be honoured by the vulture funds. That will not be the case because there is no compulsion on such funds to honour them. We tried to get legislation passed to compel vulture funds to honour agreements but the Government did not accept it. When Deputy Noonan was Minister for Finance, he stated that he would bring in the vulture funds to pick over the dead carcasses. What an awful thing to say. I had respect for the then Minister but that is unbelievable. The Government is allowing vulture funds to evict people and to terrorise them. That is traumatic, even in the absence of violence.

Sheriffs are another group who must be reined in. The laws setting out the powers and functions of the sheriffs are outdated. They have been in place since the previous century. A lot of money goes to service agents and costs are added to those of already hard-pressed homeowners. People want a break. Many of the people who are in trouble tried to find homes for themselves. They did not look for homes from the State. They got loans, found sites and built houses. Now the roof over their heads is being threatened in the run-up to Christmas. While there are celebrations everywhere, people are being threatened with evictions. The thuggery that went on in Roscommon yesterday is going on in every county. It shows vulture funds and banks can do what they like and the Garda often stand idly by. I do not blame local gardaí; I blame the authorities that allow those third force people to operate. They were allowed to park in Balbriggan station one day while they threw a family out on the road. It is totally unheard of. There is no place for that in a modern democracy.

I appeal to the Minister of State to cut out all the talks, meetings, engagements and announcements. He should introduce some real legislative change and adopt Ed Honohan's Bill. However, he will not do that because he does not want to do it. He should try to engage with the Bill introduced by Solidarity-People Before Profit, but he will not do that because he does not want to do it. The Government has all the answers, yet it has no answer as we have 10,000 people on a housing list, including 4,000 children. The Government should be ashamed.

I agree with what Deputy Broughan stated about my erstwhile colleagues. We had a big announcement today when we were talking about Brexit. I understand that Brexit is very important but I do not approve of Fianna Fáil keeping the Government in power-----

Deputy Darragh O'Brien: Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien Deputy Mattie McGrath is leading us back-----

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath -----for another year. The people want rid of Fianna Fáil because it has failed them. What will happen is that they will get rid of Fianna Fáil altogether because they are so disgusted. Fianna Fáil is a fake Opposition. Fianna Fáil was united last week when it came to abortion. Fianna Fáil can be as united as it likes. It can unite on this issue but it cannot unite and build houses for people or listen to the people who want to build houses. The way people are being treated is downright blackguarding and treachery. To think we will have to put up with Fianna Fáil for another year is an abomination to the public, to me and to many others. I agree that Brexit is most serious but it beats Banagher to give the Government another year. Confidence and supply is based on having a fake Opposition. It is totally farcical. Fianna Fáil is not delivering the goods for anybody, whether it is in housing, health, in providing decent jobs for people or supporting communities. Ní neart go chur le chéile. I do not know what is going on or what has got into the main Opposition party, as it was supposed to be, to spend so long talking about it – five or six months – and to announce today that it would keep the members of the Government in their State cars for another year, and then it will see. I heard Deputy Micheál Martin state that the agreement will continue unless something interrupts it. The Government could drop the ball. Fianna Fáil could drop the ball at any time because it is afraid of the ball. They are afraid of the people and they will not face them.

My parting word to the Minister of State is to get some houses built, keep people in their homes, change the legislation on evictions and give people some bit of respect.

Deputy Seamus Healy: Information on Seamus Healy Zoom on Seamus Healy I welcome the opportunity to speak on the Anti-Evictions Bill 2018. I commend Solidarity-People Before Profit on bringing it forward and confirm my support for it. This is one of a number of Bills and numerous Private Members' motions that have been before the House in recent years. Hardly a week has gone by in the past two and a half years without some housing issue being on the agenda. The Government is completely out of touch with the situation on the ground. It is supported by Fianna Fáil, which is also completely out of touch. Both the Government and Fianna Fáil are effectively supporting an emergency housing crisis. We all know that is the case.

The Government policy and that of Fianna Fáil has been a disastrous failure. The policy has been to privatise local authority housing in the first instance. That started back in the early 2000s with Fianna Fáil. I remember well when it was announced at a housing meeting when I was a member of South Tipperary County Council. Since then, many of us said that it would be a disaster, that it would not work and that the private sector would never deliver the houses that were needed. Sadly, we have the proof of the pudding now that more than 10,000 people, including 4,000 children, are homeless. The situation is disastrous for thousands of families. Fr. McVerry has said this crisis is affecting 500,000 people.

This Government and previous Administrations have produced a housing policy that is, in effect, relying on the private sector. It is relying on vulture funds, developers and landlords. That policy has failed and it has created the current emergency. The Government should listen to independent academics and to organisations involved in the housing area. Each and every one of them has said that the private rented sector is a complete and absolute disaster and that it is driving homelessness. We know that more than 50% of families who become homeless do so directly from the private rented sector. Only recently, Professor Tony Fahey from the school of social policy at UCD said exactly that.

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