Fianna Fáil have announced in a tweet that they are to support a private members motion on housing put forward by Solidarity and People Before Profit in the Dáil this evening. The motion calls for emergency measures to tackle the housing crisis, which include the illegalisation of evicting tenants in private rented accommodation into homelessness, introducing lower rents, doubling capital expenditure on public housing, and the insertion of a right to housing in the constitution.
A series of tweets from the party’s official Twitter account quoting Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil today outlined the party’s view on the housing crisis: “This demands effective and targeted action. Too many children are homeless, rents are too high, housing lists are too long, and young workers can’t afford to buy their own home. If government delivered its promises the problem wouldn’t be where it is. All government schemes from the last number of years have failed to meet targets.”
Fianna Fáil have previously abstained or voted against housing bills put forward by other opposition parties, including a failed motion of no confidence in Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy last week. Fianna Fáil is currently part of a confidence and supply agreement to facilitate a Fine Gael led minority government.
In response to the news, Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) President Shane De Rís said: “It is incredible that Fianna Fáil has seen the genuine desire for change. Micheál Martin was met by the student representatives last night, and I think with the show of power of students on the street [it showed] that change is needed and change is warranted.”
A spokesperson for Fianna Fáil was not available for comment at the time of publication.
The decision follows a minor protest by the Take Back Trinity group of Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin’s talk to Trinity Politics Society (PolSoc) last night. The protest followed Martin’s refusal to meet with student representatives to discuss his support of the motion. Explaining the actions, President of the Graduate Students’ Union (GSU), Oisín Vince Coulter, said: “From Monday onwards, right up to Tuesday evening, we’ve been in contact with his office requesting that he meet with student representatives to discuss the housing crisis. It proved very difficult to confirm a time, they insisted that it was going to be impossible. We needed a meeting now to discuss whether or not he was going to support the bill. We were told eventually that he was going to ‘look out for us’ as he came in. As we saw, me and the President of the Students’ Union were standing outside of the lecture theatre. [He] didn’t even look at us, walked in to the lecture theatre, did not speak to us.”
Vince Coulter continued: “The reality is we don’t need a meeting in month with Michael Martin, we don’t need a meeting with his housing advisor or whatever, we need a meeting in order to confirm whether or not Fianna Fáil is going to support the motion on housing and homelessness, which the Union of Students in Ireland has a democratic mandate to support. If they are going to abstain or vote against that motion, it raises serious questions about Fianna Fáil’s commitment on these issues and more generally why it is that they continue to prop up a government that has proven fundamentally incapable of tackling the crippling and disastrous housing and homelessness crisis and, in particular, the serious problems around student housing and student homelessness.”
A later press release from Vince Coulter and De Rís confirmed that Martin stopped to meet with the two Presidents after the talk: “We had a very frank and open conversation with Deputy Martin in which we stressed the impact of the housing crisis. We outlined, in particular, student homelessness, the inadequacy of the current rent pressure zones, as well as the other hardships faced by students as a result of the housing crisis. We outlined that thousands of students will be taking to the streets tomorrow in support of the motion coming before the Dáil and we pressed him and his party to support said motion. We hope that Fianna Fáil will listen to students, trade unions, and civil society, and vote in favour of tomorrow’s motion.”
During the event, De Rís questioned Martin, asking him will Fianna Fáil support today’s private members bill, which comes alongside the Raise the Roof protest. Martin addressed this by saying this needed to be addressed through Budget 2019. He noted that his party supported “a lot of what was in that motion”.
Over 3,000 students marched from the Garden of Remembrance to Leinster House today as part of the Raise the Roof protest, demanding affordable accommodation. The protest follows nearly two months of direct action by the Take Back the City group, which is currently occupying a property at 41 Belvedere Place.