“After the week I’ve had, I couldn’t think of a better place to come!” Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy was speaking just after arriving in Clare as a guest of Shannon Chamber.
The Minister made light of Sinn Féin’s bluff and bluster to table a motion of no confidence against his management of the housing crisis.
Within days the threat was withdrawn when a Sinn Féin Ard Fheis voted in favour of forming a Government as a minority party after the next general election. Attacking a Minister while courting his party as potential Government suiters doesn’t make political sense.
Speaking in Dromoland Castle, the Minister dismissed the sideshow saying his only concern is providing new houses to get people out of emergency accommodation.
“All the opposition are doing,” he said, “is scoring political points.” Adding that “it’s reckless on Sinn Féin’s behalf,” Minister Murphy described the threat as an attempt “to embarrass the Government and to put Fianna Fáil in an awkward position.
“We are focused on making progress. While Sinn Fein was doing stupid photocalls, myself and Paschal Donohoe agreed on a new finance vehicle to help small builders build thousands of home across the country.”
Minister Murphy said the Government has allocated €6 billion to local authorities under Rebuilding Ireland to work with the voluntary housing bodies and the private sector to provide social housing.
Last year the Government tripled the number of social houses built and plans to double that number this year. Minister Murphy said the targets for 2018 have been agreed with each local authority to ensure they are realistic.
He added, “the money is there, the policies are there. We need to continue to build as we have been building. All the supply indicators are showing dramatic increases and that means good news for families on the housing waiting list or those struggling to buy an affordable home.”
In his keynote address to Shannon Chamber, the Minister spoke about Ireland 2040, the National Planning Framework, and what it means for people living and investing here.
He also noted that Ireland is a very committed European country at a time of international uncertainty, particularly as we face the challenge of Brexit.
While the migrant crisis is challenging for the EU, Minister Murphy also believes there is a greater chance of international conflict today than there has been over the last 15 years.
Describing technological progress as “transformative’, he said it is akin to the industrial revolution, with the likes of drone technology, the shared economy and artificial intelligence and will have a profound impact on the way we live and work in the future.
Ireland is the fastest growing country in the EU. Between now and 2040, the population of the Republic of Ireland will increase by up to one million people. By then one in four people will be over 65 and one in six will be over the age of 50.
For all these reasons and more, he said the Government has put together Ireland 2040 to provide for the next 22 years. He believes we are starting from a strong base as one of the world’s top ten countries for inward investment, human development and democracy.
Minister Murphy acknowledged the crisis in housing and homelessness that has children living in emergency accommodation. He said we need to look to the longer term and build more and different types of homes to bring greater security to our housing sector.
Ireland 2040 will, he said, be the basis for capital spending for the next 20 years and €116 billion will be spent between now and 2027.
As regards balancing growth, Minister Murphy said the Government wants 50% of growth around the five largest cities while 75% of all future growth must be outside of Dublin.
As for the Midwest region, he stated, “Obviously Shannon Airport is going to be of central involvement into the future.”