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 Header Item Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions (Continued)
 Header Item Visit of Iranian Delegation
 Header Item Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí (Atógáil) - Leaders' Questions (Resumed)

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 976 No. 5

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald] If there is a no-deal Brexit, all bets are off as regards the Good Friday Agreement. All bets are off in terms of economic prosperity, social cohesion and solidarity. Rather than advancing this plan as something that is hostile to any of our people, the Taoiseach needs to understand it as an absolute necessity. In the event of a crash, we need a strong, robust plan B. The only viable plan B is the removal of the Border – the removal of the gash across our island. Has the Taoiseach planned for this contingency? Are plans under way? People need to hear reassuring words from him that he is planning in accordance with the Good Friday Agreement to allow people the opportunity to make a call, ultimately, perhaps between the union with Britain and membership of the European Union?

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar We are trying to avoid a scenario in which the UK, including Northern Ireland, crashes out of the EU. That means ratifying the withdrawal agreement which the EU and the UK Government agreed. Twenty-eight Governments have signed up to that agreement. The best thing the Deputy can do to avoid that scenario occurring, and to avoid disruption to businesses and the loss of jobs, particularly in Northern Ireland and the Border counties, is for Sinn Féin to take up its seats in Westminster and vote for that withdrawal agreement.

Deputy Mary Mitchell O'Connor: Information on Mary Mitchell O'Connor Zoom on Mary Mitchell O'Connor It is.

Deputy Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty How naive is the Taoiseach.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The second best thing Deputy McDonald can do is bring together the institutions that were established under the Good Friday Agreement.

Deputy Dessie Ellis: Information on Dessie Ellis Zoom on Dessie Ellis The Taoiseach got his answer on that one.

Deputy Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty The Taoiseach is embarrassing himself now.

Deputy Patrick O'Donovan: Information on Patrick O'Donovan Zoom on Patrick O'Donovan It is not a laughing matter. It is no joke for the people who lose their jobs.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Allow the Taoiseach respond, please.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar These are the things that Deputy McDonald can do.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Can we have order?

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar Rather than asking me and the Government I lead about our preparations for-----

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald For unity.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar -----hypothetical scenarios, the best thing the Deputy can do is to do what she can do – take her party’s seats in Westminster, vote for the withdrawal agreement, get the Assembly meeting again and establish an Executive in Northern Ireland.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald Is that it?

Deputy Simon Coveney: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney It is always somebody else's job.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Can we have order, please?

Visit of Iranian Delegation

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Before proceeding with business, I wish on my own behalf and on behalf of the Members of Dáil Éireann to offer a céad míle fáilte, a most sincere welcome to a parliamentary delegation from the Parliament of the Islamic Republic of Iran, composed of members of the Irish-Iranian Parliamentary Friendship Group, led by Mr. Mostafa Kavakebian, chair of the group. The delegation of four parliamentarians is accompanied by His Excellency Dr. Masoud Eslami, Iranian ambassador to Ireland. You are all most welcome

I suspect the time keeping in the Iranian Parliament is better than it is here.

Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí (Atógáil) - Leaders' Questions (Resumed)

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl I call Deputy Paul Murphy.

Deputy Paul Murphy: Information on Paul Murphy Zoom on Paul Murphy On the North Circular Road there is a building with 16 families living in apartments. Many young children are living there, looking forward to Santa coming, but before Christmas all those families have been issued with notices to quit. The landlord is not a small accidental landlord but a businessman with multiple properties. Yesterday, he told the tenants they were great tenants but said the market dictates the rent. The ground for eviction is the supposed need for substantial refurbishment. In reality, the tenants and the landlord know - I presume everyone here knows this and has seen it happen time and again - that this is yet another renoviction, something that deserves a word for itself now because it is so widespread, with the need for refurbishment used as a pretext to kick out tenants and hike up rents.

If these tenants are evicted, they will mostly be evicted into homelessness. The Dublin Renters' Union and Solidarity have been assisting them in preparing to oppose any evictions. The Anti-Evictions Bill, which we will debate tonight and vote on tomorrow, would stop evictions like this taking place. Every Deputy will have a choice to take the side of landlords like that or take the side of the tenants. The vast majority of homelessness is being caused by evictions from the private rented sector and that is just the sharpest end of the conditions that face tenants.

Since the Government took office, rents in cities have increased by more than 30%. Average rent nationally is more than €1,300 a month and when combined with low pay and precarity, one in seven tenants now faces consistent poverty. The picture, unfortunately, was similar two years ago in January 2017 when we moved our previous Anti-Evictions Bill. That Bill was defeated by the casting vote of the Ceann Comhairle. It would have been passed were it not for the votes of the many landlords in this Dáil who voted against it. If it had been implemented then, 2,000 families who faced eviction in 2017 on the grounds of sale of property would have been protected.

The Taoiseach's Government voted against that Bill. Two years on, with landlords continuing to use grounds of sale and renovation to evict tenants, will the Government vote against an anti-evictions Bill again? Will Fianna Fáil sit on the fence and abstain again? At the very least, does the Taoiseach agree that the one in four Deputies who are landlords should recuse themselves from voting on this Bill because of a clear conflict of interest? That conflict of interest goes much deeper, of course, than their personal status as landlords. It is related to the commitment of the establishment parties to the capitalist system and the free market in housing, which allows landlords to profit massively from a crisis facing tenants and others. It means that tenants such as those on the North Circular Road and all those affected by the housing crisis have no choice but to organise for a ban on evictions, proper rent controls and the building of public and genuinely affordable housing.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I have no doubt that all Members are able to make a distinction between their personal interests and the public interest and that applies as much to people who are members of trade unions who might vote on employment legislation, employers who might vote on employment legislation and all of us here who are taxpayers voting on tax legislation. Members are able to make the distinction between what is a personal interest and what is a public interest and we all act in the public interest.

I am not familiar with the particular building about which the Deputy spoke but I acknowledge we need to act once again to strengthen tenants' rights. Hundreds of thousands of people in Ireland rent the properties in which they live and we have strengthened their rights in recent years, but we need to take further actions, particularly to deal with landlords who abuse the renovation provisions to empty properties and jack-up rents.

The rent Bill, providing additional rights to renters and tenants, was approved by Cabinet yesterday. It has four major provisions: first, the introduction of a rent register so that people can see what rents are being charged in the area in which they live; second, extending the notice-to-quit period so that people who are asked to leave the house that they are renting get much more time to find a new place to rent; third, a legal definition of "substantial renovation" to end renovictions and bogus renovations such as the ones the Deputy described; and, fourth, additional powers for the Residential Tenancies Board, RTB, to enforce existing laws and these new laws. This is legislation the Government is bringing forward and I sincerely hope the Deputy’s party will vote for it. I would welcome an indication from him as to whether he will do so.

Deputy Paul Murphy: Information on Paul Murphy Zoom on Paul Murphy I asked for an indication from the Taoiseach about a Bill we will debate later. Perhaps we could get that first and when the Government publishes its Bill, we will respond to it. Our Bill proposes to ban evictions on the grounds of sale which would mean, as is the case in many European countries, that sale would have to take place with tenants in situ. It would ban evictions on the grounds of renovations. In the case of a landlord saying he or she has to evict because he or she or a family member is moving in, six months' rent would have to be paid in compensation. Those are the kind of measures needed to guarantee the rights and circumstances of tenants.

  On the question of personal interest versus public interest, does the Taoiseach not see it as significant that 4% of people in society as a whole are landlords? In this House, and within the Cabinet, 25% are landlords. Landlords are massively over-represented here. That is not just a question of personal interest and motivation, although one would be blind to believe those factors do not affect people, but it is a question of ideology. This Government is a landlords’ Government. It is the reason it passed a landlords’ budget, and the reason it pays lipservice to the idea of tenants and the reason I suspect, despite the Taoiseach saying he has not seen the Bill yet, that it will oppose it.


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