Previously: Very Defiant Tricolour
From top: Then Minister for Housing Simon Coveney following his meeting with Apollo House activists, including top from left: Brendan Ogle and Terry McMahon; Terry Mcmahon
Filmmaker Terry McMahon was among a group of Apollo House activists who met then Minister for Housing Simon Coveney at the Housing Agency offices in Dublin on January 6, 2017.
Terry McMahon writes:
It was late at government buildings. Rain threatened as exhausted press photographers peered up at sparsely lit windows. A cynical RTE reporter sat in his expensive car hating the dumb do-gooders that had lately hogged his headlines. The streets were empty.
Minister for Housing, Simon Coveney sat across from us. Frustration on both sides. Trying to break a deadlock. We were ‘Home Sweet Home’ and Coveney and his cohorts were the government.
We were in lengthy negotiations to secure basic rights for some of society’s most vulnerable. They were complex and difficult but Coveney reiterated the brilliantly bold statement that he would have every family out of emergency hotels by July 1st 2017.
He gave his word on it. He was staking his reputation on it. This was going to happen. This was irrefutable. This was fact.
Our side of the long negotiating table was a motley crew. Brendan Ogle and Dave Gibney were the main negotiators. Brilliant men both. Union leaders. Fighters. Then there was Jim Sheridan, the multiple Oscar nominated genius in fiction and in life; Glen Hansard, the Oscar winning giant with a heart as big as his magnificent voice; the relentlessly brave saints of The Irish Housing Network, Aisling Hedderman and Oisin Fagan; and Dean Scurry, the visionary working class hero who started the whole damn thing.
And me, the dumb fuck hack-whore who’d never be normally let in the building. On the government’s side there were men and women who led us to believe they wanted to do the right thing. And we believed them. We had to.
New Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy with Focus Ireland founder Sister Stanislaus and CEO Ashley Balbirnie at Harold’s Cross this morning
Remember former Minister for Housing Simon Coveney’s claim that he would ensure all homeless families would be out of hotel accommodation by July 1?
Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy has said the Government is going to miss its deadline of 1 July for moving homeless families from temporary hotel accommodation.
He said the 650 families involved will be moved straight into family hubs or other accommodation or they will be notified in writing of where they are going in the coming weeks.
…Mr Murphy was speaking at the opening of 28 housing units in the grounds of Harold’s Cross Hospice in Dublin. The units are owned and operated by Focus Ireland and built on a site donated by the Sisters of Charity.
Mr Murphy said that the review of Rebuilding Ireland is continuing and it is a good time to look at what new measures or powers might be needed. He said the Taoiseach has told him to think big and no idea is too radical.
Pic: Rebuilding Ireland
In the Dáil…
Irish Independents 4 Change Tommy Broughan said:
“The issue of Lynam’s Hotel on O’Connell Street which is currently being modified to become a family hub to house homeless families. A constituent contacted my office yesterday, very distressed, that she, along with her two young boys, were placed in Lynam’s Hotel late on Monday night. They arrived to find the place without running water or electricity in the room and she felt very unsafe.”
“I understand that Lynam’s is being offered as a late-night solution when no other family accommodation can be found, instead of sending families to Garda stations as has happened recently. Yet, Lynam’s is still a building site.
“Anthony Flynn, of Inner City Helping Homelessness charity, went to the property yesterday with Dublin Fire Brigade and I understand that a full inspection is being carried out today. And there’s a photo on social media of a fire escape chained shut and I understand members of the fire brigade did declare the building a fire hazard last night.
“But, in the light of this, and I also understand young students and family, including four children, minister, were today evacuated from 24, Mountjoy Square over safety issues and that a fire safety notice was issued for this property in August 2016, so minister can you now outline what other occupied properties around Dublin have fire safety notices indicating the address and date of issue for the fire safety for each property. How can tenants be left in a property which has had a fire safety notice for almost a year? I’ve asked your senior minister, Deputy Murphy, to act urgently on this.”
Previously: Meanwhile At Lynam’s
— Leo Varadkar (@campaignforleo) June 13, 2017
Brendan O’Loughlin, of Dublin’s 98FM, reported:
Dublin City Council says the Housing Minister has pulled out of appearing at its monthly meeting later. Simon Coveney hasn’t explained why he can’t make it to discuss tackling the city’s homeless problem.
A spokesperson from the Department of Housing told 98FM that Minister Coveney is simply “not available” for [yesterday] evening’s meeting.
While Enda hits the road, the stage is literally being set for the TV cameras to film Leo Varadkar's procession after appointment tomorrow pic.twitter.com/2yoZ2rRenD
— Gavan Reilly (@gavreilly) June 13, 2017
Housing minister finally publishes March 2017 housing supply statistics (31 days late), and guess what? It’s another RECORD for Simon!
Previously: ‘If You Want To Solve A Problem…‘
Meanwhile, in Dublin…
— Anthony Flynn (@AnthonyICHH) June 1, 2017
Fine Gael leadership candidates Simon Coveney (left) and Leo Varadkar (right) on the hustings last week
Of the choice awaiting Fine Gael…
Gene Kerrigan writes:
…In the real world, the great majority work because we want to work, and it pays better than the dole, and it opens possibilities for the future.
The great majority of us respect one another. We are occasionally let down, but mostly we recognise ourselves – our ambitions, our fears and our satisfactions – in the lives of our neighbours.
And where our neighbours are brought down by circumstance we wish them well, we hold fundraisers and we send them cards with flowers on them.
And when we’re occasionally brought down ourselves, we’re thankful for the helping hand that keeps us going.
We don’t share the miserable contempt and suspicion of humanity that both Varadkar and Coveney have displayed in this competition between the second-rate politician and the third rate.
These wretched people, so mistrustful of their fellow citizens, are in the process of waving goodbye to a beloved Taoiseach.
A Taoiseach who lost an election in 2007, couldn’t get a majority in 2011, took a hammering in 2016, who helped fashion a prosecutorial system that can’t prepare statements for a trial; who presides over hospitals where people die on trolleys in noisy corridors; who can’t keep track of the number of scandals that have afflicted the police force; who still seems complacent about the number of people sleeping on the streets..
…And as he leaves, two of those who helped him make this country what it sorrowfully has been reduced to are competing to replace him. And doing so in campaigns that offer a little hope, wrapped in a whole lot of suspicion and hate.
Earlier: Five More Days
During the fourth and final Fine Gael leadership hustings, a man called Joseph (top) asked about direct provision. He said thousands of Irish people can see the direct provision system is an act of disrespect to humanity.
He then asked how either Simon Coveney or Leo Varadkar would address this, if they became Taoiseach.
He also said:
“The [Bryan] McMahon Report recommends safeguards to ensure that no one is left in the asylum system longer than five years. What are your intentions regarding the people who have been in the asylum system for over five years, especially those who are not eligible to have the single application accessed under the new single procedure or people who are on deportation orders?”
From their responses:
Simon Coveney said:
“First of all, in relation to people who’ve been here for many years and who are essentially in limbo, because they are, because for many people, it’s actually almost impossible for the Department of Justice to establish a number of the facts that they’re trying to establish around people who are here as to whether they should be eligible for asylum or not.
“And so people just are here in that state of unknowing what the future holds and I do think if we advocate, as we do, for undocumented Irish in the US, to have a path to be able to regularise their own position. I believe, also in Ireland, we should allow for an opportunity for people to regularise their position over time if they’ve been here for many years.
“I also think that it is no way to actually cater for people who are waiting for asylum decisions here, beyond a certain period of time, for people to be in direct provision. People who want to make a contribution, people who are essentially living with very small amounts of money per week and with the State subsidising their lives, but really unable to make any positive contribution to society for various different reasons in terms of barriers that are put in place.
“And I do think we need to move away from that. In a way, of course those, that ensures that we make decisions firmly and fairly in relation to asylum applications and of applications in relation to refugees.
“But I do think what we have at the moment is a system that takes far too long to make decisions and therefore we’re asking families and individuals to stay in conditions which are not conducive to contributing in a positive way to society. And I know Joseph well, he’s a great guy. But there is change in this area that’s needed and of course that puts more pressure on a minister like me, in terms of social housing provision which is why we’ve committed €5.5billion to a social housing build programme that’s going to add 47,000 social houses.”
Leo Varadkar said:
“I suppose the idea of direct provision, when it was first established, I think it was probably back in the 1990s at this stage, was that people would be in direct provision for a couple of months while their applications for asylum or refugee status would be decided on and if they got status, they would then leave direct provision. If they didn’t, then they’d obviously would have to leave the country if they were found not to be eligible for refugee status or asylum status.
“The real problem is that people are now staying so long in direct provision. And there actually are people who have status, who’ve been given leave to remain, who’ve been given refugee status, but are still living in direct provision because there is no housing available for them. That’s a terrible situation to be in for people, they are still living in Mosney for example, the old Butlin’s camp, who have been given status but there is no homes for them to go to and I think that’s really, really difficult for us as a society to stand over.
“I do think things will improve. We brought through new legislation, Minister [Frances] Fitzgerald, the Minister for Justice, has finally, after a lot of hard work, successfully brought through the International Protection Act. And that’s going to change things, cause at the moment you can apply for different statuses, you can apply for different types of statuses at different times. And under the new rules, you’ll apply for all types of status on day one.
“So, at the moment, you might apply for refugee status, not get that, apply for leave to remain, then not get that, then judicial review it, she’s going to streamline that whole process so decisions are going to be made a lot quicker and I think that’s a real step forward and it’s a tribute to her and Dave Stanton, in fact, for getting through that legislation.
“One thing I’d like to see examined. I haven’t studied it in detail myself so I don’t want to make a definite commitment on it but I do think people who are in the country for a long period of time, whose status hasn’t been decided on, we should consider giving them the right to work. It must be a very frustrating thing to be in a country, you’re waiting on a decision, you want to work, you want to contribute, you want to make money for your family, you want to give something to the society you’re now living in and I think that’s something we need to take a long, hard look at.”
Earlier: A Bad Dream
Minister for Housing Simon Coveney on Tonight with Vincent Browne last night
On Tonight with Vincent Browne.
In a pre-recorded interview with Fine Gael’s Minister for Housing Simon Coveney, who is running in the Fine Gael leadership race against Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar…
Mr Coveney said he is different to Mr Varadkar who, earlier this week, said he wants to lead a party for “people who get up early in the morning.”
In addition, Mr Coveney said “those people are as important to me as people who pay for everything” referring to people in receipt of social welfare payments.
From the interview…
Simon Coveney: “I think there is a choice for the party that’s quite different.”
Vincent Browne: “Tell us the choice, between one person who says what and the other person says. Tell us both.”
Coveney: “I will. What I have been talking about is a party that represents everybody. Unlike most parties in the country at the moment, many of the smaller parties in particular, focus on niche areas in society and only represent that group of people and then actually get political traction on the basis of division and anger and protest.”
“What I’m talking about is Fine Gael representing someone who is unfortunately in a sleeping bag tonight on the streets of Dublin, as well as supporting people who are creating thousands of jobs. And supporting them and celebrating that success.
“This is a party that I joined and it’s a party that I’ve been a part of for nearly two decades of my working life that I believe has to get the best out of everybody regardless of their limitations or disabilities or social disadvantage or whatever. And…”
Browne: “Ok, that’s what you stand for…tell us how…”
Coveney: “I am not the kind of person that talks about Fine Gael only representing the person that gets up early in the morning.”
Browne: “And that’s what you stand for. Now tell us how that differs from what Leo Varadkar stands for?”
Coveney: “Well I think that is my vision for the country, is one…no, let me finish now and I’ll get to your question.”
Browne: “Ok, good.”
Coveney: “My vision is one of social justice, as well as economic progression. And I think that the approach that I have, that Fine Gael needs to reach out to people who don’t naturally support us and who may never support us in the future but our responsibility to try and get the best out of those people in society, not in some kind of dependancy way but in an enabling way.”
“I think that is a very different message to what I’ve heard from Leo Varadkar this week when he talks about Fine Gael being the party of the person that gets up early in the morning to work. Of course those people need to be represented by Fine Gael because they pay for everything. But there are many people who need the State’s intervention to allow them fulfil their potential and those people are as important to me as people who pay for everything.”
Browne: “Ok, he’s talking…”
Coveney: “I think that is very different vision for the party.”
Browne: “Ok, he talks about a sense of, culture of entitlement in the country. Do you perceive that?”
Coveney: “I mean, I think there is a politics in Ireland at the moment, that calls for the State to deliver people’s rights on everything. A right to a house, a right to healthcare, a right to education, a right to a decent income.”
Browne: “Justice. That’s justice.”
Coveney: “Yeah it is… but the way…”
Browne: “Are you not in favour of that?”
Coveney: “The way in which you achieve it is to ensure that the State enables people to make a contribution to society, as well as a dependency on a government. And I think that is the big difference between me and the hard left. And I think, you know…judge me on what I’m actually doing. I mean, in housing policy at the moment, Vincent, people will talk about the numbers and so on. We have a huge social housing build programme that’s now under way, it’s a €5.5billion project and so on. But the real change, actually, that I’m looking to bring to social housing policy in Ireland is forcing integration.”
“I no longer accept the hard-left arguments that we should designate whole parts of cities and fill them with social housing estates in a mono-tenure way. Instead we have to ensure that social houses are part of private developments and that private housing is part of new social developments…”
Browne: “Are you suggesting that Leo Varadkar is part of the hard left?”
Coveney: “No, I’m not. I’m not suggesting anything about Leo Varadkar, I’m talking about myself.”
Previously: ‘They’re Loud And They’re Growing’
Watch back in full here
— Irish Examiner (@irishexaminer) May 18, 2017
More as we get it.
Top pic via Shane O’Reilly
— Gavan Reilly (@gavreilly) May 18, 2017
Don’t let the door, etc.
From top: An eviction letter to a tenant of Robin Hill, and another outlining how existing tenants will have to pay a deposit and new bi-monthly energy bills; Minister for Housing Simon Coveney
You may recall a post from last week about the Robin Hill apartment complex in Sandyford, Dublin 4 which went up for sale last week, after it went into Nama and was subsequently sold to Cerberus.
The post detailed claims made in the Dáil by People Before Profit-Solidarity TD Richard Boyd-Barrett.
The TD said five of Robin Hill’s tenants are now facing eviction and also said those who were not being evicted straight away were told they must pay an additional €250 per month in heating and hot water charges which were not previously included in the rent.
Mr Boyd-Barrett subsequently spoke about Robin Hill and the Tyrrelstown amendment to Seán O’Rourke on RTE Radio One.
This amendment was added to the Planning and Developlemt (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Bill 2016 before Christmas.
It had originally proposed that where a landlord proposes to sell 20 or more units in a development – within six months – the sales would be conditional on existing tenants being able to remain in the property unless there were exceptional circumstances. This figure was later reduced to five and then increased to 10.
Mr Boyd-Barrett told Mr O’Rourke:
“The vulture fund or landlord can evict nine people and then six months later, by the way, the legislation will allow them to evict another nine people. And six months after that, another nine people.”
Further this this.
Eleanor Burnhill, on RTÉ’s News At One, reported on eviction notices that some of the residents of Robin Hill have received from an agent acting on behalf of Grant Thornton.
They have until June 25 to vacate Robin Hill.
Ms Burnhill reported that she obtained a statement from the Minister for Housing Simon Coveney about the matter.
“He says he is aware of the Robin Hill case. The statement says the Minister has indicated that if there is evidence that legislation is being circumvented, by companies selling off units in batches of less than 10, he will revisit this area generally.
“The officials on behalf of the minister are attempting to make contact with Cerberus to discuss the issue as soon as possible.
“And in relation to the area of hot water charges that you heard in that report, he says that if there a suggestion that new charges not previously covered by the existing tenancy agreement, if they’re being introduced, then the tenants have it open to appeal to the Residential Tenancies Board, as they have done.“
Listen back to Ms Burnhill’s report in full here
Previously: ‘The Minister Did Not Contact Me’
Pics: Eleanor Burnhill/Rollingnews