Government survives no-confidence vote after heated Dáil exchanges

Press Association

The Government has survived a vote of no-confidence in the Dáil on Wednesday afternoon.

The vote of no-confidence was tabled by the Labour Party following the Government's decision to allow the moratorium on no-fault evictions to lapse at the end of the month.

Labour leader Ivana Bacik said her party tabled the motion as the Government’s choice to lift ban will be “disastrous” and “catastrophic”.

Of the 153 votes cast, 86 voted in support of the Government while 67 voted against. None of TDs present abstained from the vote.

Following the result, the Dáil's business of the day continues as planned with Leaders Questions, ahead of a vote on Sinn Féin's Bill on the eviction ban later.

The proposed legislation comes after a Sinn Féin motion calling for an extension of the eviction ban was voted down last week.

Neasa Hourigan, who was suspended from the Green Party for 15 months last week after voting against the Government in the vote on extending the eviction ban, voted in support of the Government in the confidence motion.

During the debate on the confidence motion on Wednesday, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar accused opposition TDs of “political theatre” and “performative anger”.

In his speech, Mr Varadkar said the housing crisis is “one of the greatest political challenges of our time”.

He said the Government had to lead with ideas that are “realistic and implementable”.

“Instead of honesty about the scale of the problem and what can be achieved given the constraints, we get quick fixes, simple solutions, populist rhetoric, politicians claiming to care more than others, even conspiracy theories about the causes of the crisis and the demonisation of those who are working every day to relieve it.

“It is political theatre. Performative anger. Performance art. And I think more and more people are starting to see through it.”

As an example, he said it was “disingenuous” to claim the Labour motion is about renters’ rights.

The Taoiseach said: “It is about competition – competition for attention – on the opposition benches.

“Four parties trying to outdo each other to come up with new, more dramatic language to describe the housing situation as though somehow that would actually help anyone.”

Mr Varadkar said the Labour Party has “no answers” and had “long-lost confidence in itself”.

In response, Labour leader Ivana Bacik also accused Mr Varadkar of engaging in “political theatrics”.

“You spent more time lambasting Labour than you have setting out what you say Government has achieved on housing, and yet you’re accusing us in opposition of politicising housing,” she said.

She said Labour had tabled a motion of no confidence because the Government’s choice to lift the moratorium on no-fault evictions is “disastrous” and “catastrophic”.

Ms Bacik added: “This catastrophic failure in housing delivery lies at the fault of Government, and it’s a failure of ideology.”

She called for the yearly delivery of 50,000 new builds and 50,000 refurbishments and retrofits.

In reply remarks, Tánaiste Micheal Martin said the opposition has abandoned “any effort to offer a comprehensive alternative”.

“In the place of an alternative, all we have from them are soundbites intended only to exploit the very real concerns of people on particular points while ignoring the overwhelming majority of issues and the actions taken by the Government to address it,” he said.

Mr Martin said the motion was called due to Labour “seeking attention”.

“It has adopted a strategy of trying to match others for angry rhetoric and empty promises. Just like other left parties, it remains so terrified of Sinn Féin’s troll army that it is increasingly incapable of presenting a distinct position from that party on any matter,” he added.

Mr Varadkar said parties seem to believe the housing crisis was “terribly mismanaged” – except for when they were in government.

“No wonder Sinn Féin is so happy – they get to be consistent and direct their ire at everyone,” Mr Varadkar said.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald accused Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael of making “disastrous decisions” on housing.

“On your watch, we have gone from housing crisis to housing emergency to housing disaster,” she said.

Needs of the people

Mrs McDonald said the Government does not “serve the needs of the people”.

“For the last three years, joined by the Green Party, you’ve continued to sing from that same ruinous hymn sheet,” the Sinn Féin leader said.

“This Government came to office claiming that it would be the government to fix housing, and yet you have clung to the same failed policies and the calamitous results are plain to see,” she said.

Mrs McDonald said Ireland “needs change like never before”.

She added: “The sharpest edge of this scandal is seen in those sleeping in doorways and in the tents on the banks of the canals.

“These are heartbreaking sights that will become more frequent because of the failure to resource emergency accommodation.”

Mrs McDonald said a Sinn Féin government would “solve this housing crisis”.

Sinn Féin housing spokesperson Eoin O Broin criticised the Minister for Housing for presiding “over a 40 per cent increase in homelessness and a 56 per cent increase in child homelessness”.

“Darragh O’Brien is the minister for homelessness, and shame on him.”

Minister O’Brien said the debate on the motion of confidence included “nothing new” and included “simple sloganeering and vitriol”.

He said people would “see through” the Labour plan for one million homes over a decade.

“You should not go down the road that your colleagues here in Sinn Féin have, because what Sinn Féin will do, time and time again – ably supported by the Social Democrats – is oppose every single measure that this Government takes,” he said.