Reading Roger Garland’s letter (September 27th) reminded me of an unpleasant incident about 20 years ago.
My wife and I were leading a group of young French walkers in the Sligo area. One day we climbed onto the rough grazing land of the Benbulben plateau, to be confronted by a foul-mouthed, angry farmer telling us in no uncertain terms to clear off.
The French visitors may or may not have visited Ireland again but this type of behaviour hardly encouraged them or their friends. Nor would they be encouraged to know that this could happen anywhere in Ireland, not just in this area.
That was the situation on access to the countryside then and it is the situation now. Nothing has changed.
In stark contrast to other European countries, landowners have absolute rights over their lands, no matter how unused, no matter how remote. With untold damage already caused to our tourism interests (among others) one would expect the State to do something other than sit on its hands. Some hope!
Fintan O’Toole, left, and Fianna Fail TD Barry Cowen
In recent weeks Fintan O’Toole has at great length called upon the people of Ireland to follow him in adopting a more challenging and complex view of identity.
It is therefore surprising that he should so soon afterwards have chosen to write Tuesday’s crass and superficial commentary on Fianna Fáil’s housing policy.
Instead of addressing the full policy, he unfortunately chose to caricature one element of it and compare it to an unclear story about the purchase of a pub a quarter of a century ago.
Because Fintan O’Toole decided that there was no need to complicate his piece with any context or extra information, let me explain what we have been talking about concerning increasing house supply.
We have for a number of years been pointing to the inevitability of the housing emergency that has grown because of the neglect and lack of basic planning by the Fine Gael government.
This applies to every type of housing – from private rental and social housing to owner-occupier.
The decision of Fine Gael and Labour ministers to effectively abandon the social and affordable housing sector has caused particular destruction – with there being in place today 6,000 fewer social houses than there would be if the rate of building in 2010 had been maintained (just 2,400 have been built since 2011).
This is not to mention the damage done by their decision to reduce by half the Part V obligation on developers (which provided 16,000 new social and affordable homes) and to abolish all affordable housing schemes for low- and middle-income workers in 2012.
The sole objective of our policy is to increase the supply of more affordable housing and we have proposed a wide range of measures to achieve this. This prioritises the interests of individuals and families, not builders or developers.
These include a return to the building of significant numbers of social and affordable houses by local authorities and approved housing bodies. But we cannot ignore the role of the private sector.
The reality is that the State will never be able to build enough social and affordable housing to accommodate housing needs of all low- and middle-income households. It is fantasy to suggest otherwise.
This is why we proposed to directly incentivise the construction of units (houses or apartments) to be sold below affordable price points.
This would involve the application of the special rate of VAT (9 per cent rate) only on residential properties sold below an affordability threshold, such as €350,000 to €400,000.
A unit sold above the affordability threshold would not be able to claim special rate VAT reduction.
We still need economic analysis from the Department of Housing to assess the full impact of this on the market and what the cost to the exchequer would be. While we have asked for the specific information, it has not been provided.
The department costing of €240 million of our proposal is overblown as our special rate VAT reduction is proposed only for units sold below an affordability threshold, whereas the department costing is for all residential units.
To suggest that this is some dark, corrupt idea is absurd. If Fintan O’Toole wants to argue that it wouldn’t work he is welcome to do so, but this type of ad hominem attack is not what one would expect from the holder of a George Orwell award for commentary.
I have often wondered how I have managed for most of my 80 years without receiving text messages. I have just received one from Three telling me that Kasabian will be at the 3Arena in Dublin in November.
While Brexiteers have lately been drenched by a cold shower of reality, “Irexiteers” frustratingly cling to the same toxic fantasy that has driven the UK to its greatest foreign policy disaster in decades.
Europe is our home. We have benefited and grown greatly as a nation from our EU membership, and remain members because it is overwhelmingly in our interests.
The Irish people have repeatedly recognised at the ballot box that, whether we are in the EU or not, many decisions which are important to our country are decided in Brussels.
As such, we’re far better off as equal members, with our vote, our veto, and our seat at the table of the world’s most important trade bloc – all of which the UK has gambled away.
Mr Kinsella disappointingly blames the EU for issues not of its making, such as the existence of the Irish Border, the US-led bombings of Syria and Libya, and even the consequences of Brexit.
While claiming that Brexit renders Ireland “marginalised, peripheral and dependant”, Mr Kinsella also bafflingly seems to believe that an Irexit would reverse this.
How does losing our vote and our rights in Europe strengthen us? How does cutting ourselves off from the single market we helped to build make us more prosperous or secure?
Does Mr Kinsella not recognise that leaving the EU actually results in a very real loss of control, as the UK is currently finding out?
Finally, Mr Kinsella asks “who will uphold and advocate Ireland’s national interests?” The answer is simple. Ireland will. To do so, we need an equal seat at the table, and a vote to cast.
Currently the situation at RTÉ is causing widespread disquiet.
The NUJ and many women are angry that male presenters are paid considerably more than their female counterparts, the head of the company is concerned that it is losing money while the general public is worried about a possible increase in the price of the TV licence.
I have a suggestion that could solve all these problems at once: reduce the salaries of the men until they match those of the women.
RTÉ bosses have been accused of gagging staff who want to talk publicly about the gender pay gap controversy.
During a meeting of RTÉ National Union of Journalists (NUJ) members on Thursday it was claimed that management had refused to give permission to some of its stars to engage with the media about the ongoing debate over pay.
One presenter told the meeting she had been approached by a number of newspapers and asked to comment on the issue but when she asked for authorisation from RTE it was denied.
I write as a homeless citizen in my late 30s. My father had a house, a car and three children when he was my age.
The Irish capitalist system has failed my generation when it comes to housing rights. The laissez-faire housing strategy has failed us.
I call for a bailout of the sizeable homeless population of Ireland and the urgent utilisation of State power to act as social entrepreneur in resolving inequality of conditions as far as housing is concerned.
Only the bypass of market forces can resolve the situation. We cannot wait any longer for social justice.
Noel Whelan’s article “Far left’s high profile contrasts sharply with modest electoral reach” describes the Solidarity-PBP grouping as minnows.
The Labour Party has seven seats to Solidarity-PBP’s six. If we combine, as Mr Whelan does in his article, Solidarity-PBP’s seats with those of the Independents 4 Change grouping and other left-wing TDs, the left comfortably outnumbers Labour.
Yet Noel Whelan does not call Labour small fish or “fringe deputies”.
The thuddingly dull comparison between Donald Trump and the left, as constant in your newspaper as the Angelus, on the basis of criticism of the mainstream media, is fatuous.
It should not need to be said that the basis and method of the left’s critique of certain sections of the media differs ever so slightly from Mr Trump’s lying, egomaniacal Twitter outbursts against CNN.
Your columnist manages class snobbery and reverse class snobbery in the one paragraph, suggesting that the kind of people who vote left are not natural Irish Times readers and, heaven forbid, that some left-wing TDs have the temerity to have been born to middle-class backgrounds.
I can assure him that many supporters of the left of all classes read this newspaper, either as its de facto status as the paper of record or as a means to keep abreast of the latest fashionable delusions of the bourgeois hive-mind, of which Noel Whelan is such a stalwart proponent.
Natasha Browne is right when she says that the decision of the British think tank Policy Exchange to advise Ireland to follow the UK out of the EU demonstrates “the British superiority complex” in feeling they can determine the fate of this country.
The think tank advises that Ireland should consider leaving the EU. It is not quoted as saying we should rejoin the UK but the implication is clear.
After centuries of colonial exploitation, we still have to put up with the neighbouring former imperial power telling us what to do – or else.
It wants us to follow it in tearing up the agreement it signed with its fellow European citizens to join the EU.
The EU represents the cooperation of nearly 30 European democracies in matters of mutual interest. It replaces centuries of imperial and totalitarian conflict in Europe and is the most advanced example of such cooperation in the world.
All Ireland can say to the UK in reply is no, we will not tear up that agreement. But we should also respectfully suggest that the UK should reverse what the UK’s own think tank defines as the “massively damaging” decision to tear it up.
A table in Monday’s Irish Times; Minister for Housing Simon Coveney
You may recall how, last Sunday morning, Dublin Institute of Technology lecturer Lorcan Sirr tweeted that only 2,076 new houses were built in 2016 compared to the official figure of 14,932.
He also tweeted a table detailing the number of new house completions, excluding one-off houses, built in each county last year based on figures confirmed by the Building Control Management System. These state just 848 such properties were built as opposed to the Department of Housing’s figure of 8,729.
An article with the same figure, and more, obtained under Freedom of Information, appeared in The Irish Times on Monday. This article also had a table with the same information as Mr Sirr’s table.
The claims followed similar concerns about the department’s housing figures previously raised by architect Maoilíosa Reynolds in an article in The Sunday Business Post two Sundays ago.
Further to this…
Minister for Housing Simon Coveney has written the following letter to The Irish Times
The article on homes built in 2016 demonstrates the dangers of obtaining and interpreting data without proper context or testing its validity.
The table accompanying the article is inaccurate; the published figure of 848 units presented as the total output of estate houses and apartments built in 2016 is in fact the number of Certificates of Compliance on Completion submitted to the Building Control Management System (BCMS) for all works, not just residential construction, in the first quarter of 2017.
I have said repeatedly that the Building Control Management System was designed for compliance for building control purposes. It was not designed for gathering statistics and the published article is a perfect example of how statistics can be misrepresented and inaccurately presented.
There are several reasons why the BCMS data does not currently record and reflect housing completions, although the Department Housing, Planning, Community & Local Government is actively exploring its potential in this regard. Some of these reasons include the fact that Certificates of Compliance on Completion are required for certain works that submitted a commencement notice on or after March 1st, 2014. Developments commenced before that date, including many developments started but not finished during the downturn may still be under construction.
Certificates of Compliance on Completion are not required for one-off houses that have chosen to opt out of the statutory certification process since September 1st, 2015.
A single Certificates of Compliance on Completion may cover multiple buildings or works, this is in order to reduce the administrative burden and cost for industry, so simply counting certificates can underestimate total units constructed.
The requirement for these Certificates of Compliance on Completion is relatively new, at a time when construction activity has been relatively low, with the result that the process and issuing of Certificates of Compliance on Completion is only becoming established.
The recording and reporting of statistics on housing completions is a complex area. We have several different statistics from various reputable sources that measures different issues as well as many different views in relation to which statistics we should use.
We have, however, used ESB connections as an overall proxy for housing completions and have done so since the 1970s, so it is, and will continue to be, an important long-term comparator, and an important indicator of trends in the number of new homes being made available. It is important to note that the ESB figures are by no means the only dataset we use.
We have, for example, detailed information on residential construction activity from local authorities – at the end of 2016, the four Dublin local authorities reported 144 active construction sites, encompassing the construction of some 5,200 new dwellings.
…Suggestions that I am trying to mask the completion figures are nonsense.Everything my department does is open and transparent and the one thing that is apparent from all key statistical sources (eg planning permissions, commencements, completions) is that housing supply activity is increasing, underpinning that Rebuilding Ireland, and its core objective of increasing housing supply, is beginning to have a positive impact.
It has been a slow and complex process to realise the upswing in housing supply and the Government will continue to focus on actions and initiatives to increase supply across all tenures during 2017 and beyond.
Simon Coveney, TD
Minister for Housing,
Planning, Community & Local Government,