‘To Suggest This Is Some Dark, Corrupt Idea Is Absurd’


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.

Barry Cowen TD,
Co Offaly.

FF, housing policy and the builders (Irish Times letters page)

Previously: Like Nothing Has Happened

27 thoughts on “‘To Suggest This Is Some Dark, Corrupt Idea Is Absurd’

  1. Anomanomanom

    So no explanation on way its impossible for the state to build enough houses, he just states its impossible. Also what planet is living on when €350-400k is affordable. Typical FF tripe.

  2. MoyestWithExcitement

    “To suggest that this is some dark, corrupt idea is absurd.”

    To suggest developers need incentives to develop is absurd. Sales are their incentive you massive clown.

    1. A snowflake's chance in hell

      Surprised you don’t make some quips about a whiskey nose or a brother who was fond of the sauce?

      Got any more ‘great finds’ about maybe some relatives involved in tragic motor accidents?

    2. scottser

      Me.and.the missis are tendering builders to build us a 3 bed gaff. 2 in so far one for 410k the other for 490k. They either don’t want the job or are taking the piss cos if a gaff costs that much to build then we are all fupped

  3. dav

    shows such failure in fg housing policy that ff are emboldened enough to give advice, it’s like fire safety tips from a arsonist

  4. brownbull

    ‘the decision of Fine Gael and Labour ministers to effectively abandon the social and affordable housing sector’ – Fianna Fail unwound this sector before the crash even hit, they got rid of the National Building Agency and unwound capacity and competency in Local Authorities to build housing over decades, all for neo-liberal ideological reasons. They outsourced social housing to voluntary agencies that are not fit for purpose – we will be unable to build social housing as required until we rebuild agencies and authorities for this task, unfortunately Fine Gael have no interest in this either

  5. Richard

    Like the old Budweiser ad used to say, “some bottle, some neck”.

    What we should have learned in the last 15 years is that we should do the opposite to whatever FF are suggesting in relation to building and construction.

    The cajones on him.

  6. Yeah, Ok

    So FF won’t build social housing and will focus on supply side incentives. Essentially the same sh1te that hasn’t been working this entire time.

    These lads started this crap, don’t forget. Brass necks on them.

  7. fmong

    [i]an affordability threshold, such as €350,000 to €400,000.[/i]

    The average salary in Ireland is e45,000, which we can accept is probably a skewed figure… Banks will lend you 3.5 times your annual salary, if you’re lucky enough that they’ll lend to you at all. Ergo.. the average person could get a mortgage for e157,500. Two people on “average salary” could get e315,000.. still e35,000 short of the bottom of the “affordability threshold”.

    This is all without factors like exploding rents destroying peoples abilities to save, JobBridge eviscerating the idea of earning a living wage as a graduate, the lack of available housing stock, the looming presence of vulture funds in the market and the ever widening gap between high earners and middle/low income groups.

    I dunno, it’s depressing.. FF/FG et al, seem to catering directly to some imaginary well-to-do middle class ideal that in reality has been all but decimated by almost 10 years of austerity. No amount of appeasing developers, shouting at Fintan O’Toole or super charging of the property market is going to change that.


    1. Donal

      I think concentrating on the upper end of the affordability scale that he mentions is worrying about the wrong thing.
      A couple on the average you mention would need the other 35k as deposit in order to obtain a mortgage, 315k sounds about right for mortgage for 350k house.

      Anyway, should we be listening to FF? No no no no no no no no

      1. fmong

        a bit more digging reveals that the average wage is actually 37,000


        722.65 weekly wage x 52 weeks = e37,000
        e37,000 x 3.5 = e131,250 mortagage
        x 2 for a couple (because screw you if you’re single and think you should have a home!) = e262,500

        We’re almost 90k off the “affordablity scale” [(c)FF2017]

        But yeah I agree Donal, this all academic really, for a variety of real world reasons. What it does show me is how out of touch these politicians are if they think the housing crisis is down to people not being able to spend the 400,000 burning a hole in their back pockets.

        1. Bonkers

          Eh I think it is more than 90% off, this mortgage calculator says a couple each earning 37k will be able to borrow 259k.

  8. :-Joe

    “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.”


    Another good ‘ol Red(Faction) Team vs Blue(Faction) Team push for power….


    Pot, Kettle, Psychopathic behaviour etc.


  9. TheRealJane

    I would like to hear more from Barry Cowen on what he expects holders of awards to say.

    A quick google suggests that B. Cowen holds no awards.

    He is a auctioneer and valuer and this letter is exactly what I would have expected him to write.

    It’s very confusing.

    1. Bonkers

      Isnt it interesting the way that Father Niall Molloy was murdered at a political wedding in the small village of Clara in Offaly where Ber Cowen, Brian Cowen and Barry Cowen all hail from and yet none of them has ever called for justice for Father Molloy?

  10. Chris

    Mammy, mammy, Fintan pinched me and was mean to me and when I tried to take my turn he pushed me down and he said I didn’t care about housing as much as him but I do mammy I do I swear! Waaah, waaaah, whaaaaaah!

  11. mo_musing

    jfc, unbelievable cheek! FF started the decimation of social housing. Social housing is the only thing that’s going to get us out of this.

Comments are closed.