Fine Gael TD and junior minister for finance, Simon Harris
This morning’s Friday Gathering panel on the Today With Seán O’Rourke Show were: Minister of State at the Department of Finance, Simon Harris, Anti Austerity Alliance TD Ruth Coppinger, Mick Clifford, Special Correspondent with The Examiner and Political Correspondent with RTE, Katie Hannon.
During their discussion, the matter of homeless and social housing was raised.
Mr Harris also talked about the economy…
Ruth Coppinger: “Just with regard to this funding of local authorities, let’s just be absolutely factual: 20 local authority homes were completed in the first quarter of 2015 and 117 housing association homes. If that continues…”
Sean O’Rourke: “Is that for the whole country?”
Coppinger: “Yes. There’s the department of environment figures. If that continues for the whole year, there’ll be less than 500, you know, social houses. In 1975, I lived in a council house with my family and there was 8,795 houses built by local authorities.”
Talk over each other
Simon Harris: “We’re not having a dispute over this. I’m basically making the point…”
Talk over each other
Coppinger: “No, but can I clarify, I said, Fianna Fáil did lower things but actually they built more in 2010 than you’re building now and this is meant to be an housing emergency. That’s just the facts.”
Harris: “Let’s be very clear about what I said. When you decide, as a Government, as the previous government did, to stop building social housing, to stop building social housing and to move into the rental market – that was a policy decision they made. When you decide for that to happen, the system grinds…please let me finish…the system grinds to a halt. The infrastructure that’s in place to build the houses grinds to a halt. You have to bring that back up. We have put investment in place that will allow that to happen but it won’t happen over night…”
Coppinger: “It’s not for building houses. It’s for modular homes and hotel accommodation.”
Harris: “You, you, you protesting about it, or sitting in show houses, isn’t going to solve the problem.”
Talk over each other
Coppinger: “Well, actually, it’s brought more attention which is move than you’ve ever done.”
Harris: “No what will solve the problem is actually coming up with ways of funding it and our economic policies mean we can…”
Coppinger: “Can I tell you how we could fund it? It’s actually quite simple.”
Harris: “You don’t have a way of funding it.”
Coppinger: “Ok, I’ll give you two examples of where it could be funded.”
Coppinger: “Nama has €3billion on hand now, for development. I believe it’s going to go into the Docklands or whatever. That €3billion could be set aside for social and affordable houses. It also sold Dundrum Shopping Centre and a number of shopping centres and it got €1.8billion, that could also go towards it. We could argue about how much it costs to build a house but if you brought in emergency legislation, planning legislation, to fastrack this, which could be done if you had a Government that cared..”
Harris: “We do care.”
Coppinger: “You could quickly acquire land, Nama has a third of development land in Dublin. And, for example, modular homes which I understand people might want because hotel lives are so bad, aren’t that cheap and they’re really not that quick either because you’ll still have the whole planning issue. You could actually, no, but you could refurbish some of the hotels, give people cooking facilities and located them to where their kids are. I’ve talked to homeless people about it…”
Harris: “And I’ve talked to homeless people as well.”
Coppinger: “And, sorry, there is also the Strategic Investment Fund – there’s €4billion…”
Harris: “And as you know, and as you probably heard from Nama, at the Public Accounts Committee, there is a significant number of homes that have been offered to local authorities. Some have been, a significant number, over 4,000, have been turned down. That’s not a criticism of local authorities but of the 6,000 houses offered, the local authorities turned down over 4,000.”
Coppinger: “That figure is being cited by the Government but actually…”
Harris: “It’s not being cited, it’s a statement of fact.”
Coppinger: “It’s not a lot to offer though…”
Harris: “It’s a statement of fact.”
Coppinger: “Over 8 years, if you boil it down, that’s not a lot of housing.”
Michael Clifford: “There’s a case, the Government, definitely, they righted a listing economy, there’s no question about that, the economy is in much better shape than it was four years ago. You can argue about how fair it was, absolutely, you can argue about and the fact that the benefits coming through are not being felt. However, outside, following the programme, laid down by the Troika and Fianna Fáil, in relation to numerous social issues, the Government’s been an abject failure. They put all their energies into the economy, as they saw it and a number of social issues – we saw this the minute the Troika left town – they started being hit by various issues straight away.”
Harris: “Yeah but I have to come back on this point because there is an attempt, and I think a view held that you can decouple economy from society. It’s very easy for any politician or commentator to list all societal issues, of which there are many, you can’t fund them, they’re only aspirational and cheap talk unless you actually have a functioning economy. What we now have is what we didn’t have when we came to office in 2011: is an economy that can begin to fund those services. But only if we secure the recovery, only if we get more people back to work and only if we make the right decisions.”
Listen back in full here
Previously: Who Wants To Live In An Economy?
“There is an intimidatory element attached to patrons using premises such as these and no resident should be subjected to living in fear of this situation occurring”.
Simon Harris objecting to a Simon Community homeless shelter in his Wicklow constituency in 2013.