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Fianna Fáil backbenchers accused of ‘bizarre’ campaign to amend cheap house plan

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22nd April 2021

BACKBENCH Fianna Fáil TDs and senators have been accused of a “bizarre” campaign to urge their own Housing Minister to amend his plan for cheaper homes.

Three Fianna Fáil TDs and senators who are on the Oireachtas Housing Committee took to the plinth at Leinster House to lay out eight amendments for Darragh O’Brien’s Affordable Housing Bill.

Four of the amendments relate to the controversial shared equity scheme, which the ESRI and the Central Bank have warned will push up house prices.

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Senator Mary Fitzpatrick and TDs Paul McAuliffe and Joe Flaherty called on the minister to consider these recommendations.

Sinn Féin housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin said it was a “bizarre” move by the backbenchers.

“I don’t think I’ve ever come across a group of Government backbenchers asking a minister to amend his legislation from the plinth. Normally you do that from a committee or talking to your party colleague,” he said.

However, Ms Fitzpatrick said the three Fianna Fáil members were “very actively” engaging with Mr O’Brien.

“We’re also very conscious that he’s a minister in a department that is there a lot longer than what he has been,” she said.

“He’s also a minister in a Government where we don’t have a majority.”

She said housing is the “number one priority” for Fianna Fáil and that the three politicians are aiming to help the minister.

“From a Fianna Fáil party perspective, housing is certainly our number one priority.

“We want to ensure that the minister’s hand is strengthened within Government, within Cabinet and with all the Government departments.”

This is the first time that any of the three have spoken out publicly against the proposed bill.

This is despite often defending it in media appearances and in public Oireachtas Housing Committee meetings when it was criticised by members of opposition parties. Meanwhile, prominent Fianna Fáil backbencher Marc MacSharry told Newstalk yesterday that he has no confidence in his party leader, Taoiseach Micheál Martin.

“We have had one strategy which is based on hope, vaccination and lockdown. That’s not a strategy, and in that context, no: I don’t have confidence,” he said.

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