Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin TD has labelled the government’s social housing delivery for 2016 as “uninspiring and wholly inadequate.” Deputy Ó Broin made the comments on foot of the publication of the Social Housing Construction Projects Status Report for 2016.
He said: “This report shows that only 652 units were delivered in 2016. This is just 8% of the overall number of units currently “in development”. This figure is spread across Local Authorities, Associated Housing Bodies, Capital Assistance projects, rapid builds, regeneration projects, Capital Advance and Leasing projects and turnkey projects.
“Another 21% of the units are on site. However, 34 of the 90 developments described as on site only commenced in the fourth quarter of 2016. The majority of the developments, over 70% of the social housing units announced, are being held up by the cumbersome approval, tendering and procurement rules that the Department of Housing imposes on local Councils. These rules can delay the delivery of social housing by up to 24 months.
“For example, the figures published in this status report worrying show that 89 of the 353 projects stuck in the bureaucratic approvals process have been at the first stage of the process, the capital appraisals stage, since the third quarter of 2015 or before. Over a quarter of the social housing projects currently under development have been stuck at stage one of the approvals and procurement process for 16 months or more.
“This is not good enough given the level of social housing need in this state. Last November I published a document as to how the approval, tendering and procurement regime for social housing could be speeded up. This would consist of a one stage approval process instead of the current four stage process.
“Sinn Féin also recommend that to enable local authorities and Associated Housing Bodies to deliver social housing programmes as quickly as possible the Department of Housing should provide them with, in principle, funding approval for six years to cover the period of the government’s Housing Plan. The Department of Housing must take the time to review its own procedures and see how it can reduce the red tape holding up the delivery of social housing.”
The first motion below, 8.2, submitted by Sinn Fein Councillor, Catherine Carey, was born out of anger from some locals in Clonmel from an incident where Irish Water turned off supply to number of households, including some elderly, without any prior notice. This left many unprepared for having no water for a long period.
Cllr Martin Browne of Sinn Féin Tipperary has said that the Government has abandoned citizens to their fate at the hands of vulture funds. He says that while Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Labour engage with presenting schools with tokens of 1916 they are hypocritical in their failure to act on the ideals of the Republic. Speaking at a march in Clonmel, he has called for the declaration of a housing emergency, to include a moratorium on repossessions.
Cllr Browne said: “In 2016 it is totally unacceptable to have thousands of families’ homeless. The government must declare a housing emergency now. With over 2,000 children in emergency accommodation, and a further 3 families a week presenting as homeless, our Government is sitting back and letting this happen. This has to stop, and it has to stop now.”
“Vulture funds are reviled around this country by all right-minded people but we have a Minister for Finance that is a big fan of these. Ulster Bank recently sold 900 home mortgages to such funds at discounted prices; which means a large number of these families will get evicted from their homes. Recently we saw thugs in balaclavas moving on a house in Clare and try to throw a family out of their home.”
“At least banks can give some excuse – no matter how poor it is – that they have to answer to shareholders. But what excuse has the government for selling thousands of homes to these funds? They have sat back and watched while NAMA sold massive property portfolios at a fraction of what they are worth.”
“It has been three years since the governor of the central bank warned of the consequences if this continued. But Fine Gael & Labour drove on with this policy and we condemn them for this. The most frightening thing about this is that at present 46,000 Irish mortgages are operated by these vulture funds. That’s the equivalent of all the houses in a large town like Drogheda.”
“It is time they dealt with the problem, as all the evidence points to this crisis getting worse. In 2006 only 10% of the population were renting. By 2016 this had jumped to 20%. Last year it was announced that 1,700 social houses were now shovel ready. Not one of those has even started.”
“All of the blame cannot go on the last government. The seeds of this began with the Fianna Fáil & Green Party government. We must not forget that. But while we are constantly being told that there is no money in the country, the top 300 citizens in this country have a combined wealth of €88 billion. That is an increase of 3.9% in the past 12 months.”
Speaking at the march in Clonmel, Cllr Browne called on the Government to:
- Recognise the scale of the crisis and to declare a housing emergency
- Fast track the approval, procurement, and tendering process for local authorities
- Introduce rent certainty and link rents to the consumer price index (CPI)
- Introduce a repossession moratorium pending steps to deal with mortgage distress
- Introduce emergency legislation giving private rental tenants greater protection
This is the full recording of the Tipp FM debate on Friday 19th February 2016, for the general election in the constituency of Tipperary. It was held in the Horse & Jockey, Co. Tipperary.
It was a very civilised affair! 6 candidates, including Séamie Morris of Sinn Féin and Séamus Healy (Workers & Unemployed Action Group). Also included are Michael Lowry, Siobhán Ambrose, Noel Coonan. Also present is the man who gave away Tipperary’s single biggest natural asset, Alan Kelly.
This is uncut, warts and all. After the first minute video and audio quality are very good, but at 1:44:25 the audio track changes for a few minutes to the backup audio as I replace batteries in the microphone!
Sinn Féin’s Tipperary General Election candidate Cllr. Séamie Morris has said that the future of Tipperary’s water resources and the protection of our ground water for future generations has is now in question. He was speaking on the issue ahead of the mass mobilization on Saturday by Right2Water Ireland.
Cllr Morris said: “The Irish Water scam threatens the future of all water users in Tipperary. Irish Water PLC will see water bills rise for all water users over the coming years especially from 2018 when the water meters which pose a risk to health will be switched on.”
“Some figures that I have seen indicate that in 2018 bills will more than double for domestic registered users while those with private wells will eventually have to connect to the Irish Water system when pipes are laid in their particular area. Charges on septic tanks are another area of huge concern.”
“The Irish Water PLC contract contains many underling issues such as future storm water charges for public sewage users but privatisation is defiantly on the cards under EU competition law. The Civil Debt Procedures Bill 2015, due to come into effect shortly after the general election, poses a real threat not only to those perceived to be customers of Irish Water PLC but to all of our household interactions with business.”
“It is Tipperary’s asset, the ground water itself that is most threatened by the Irish Water PLC scam. I applaud all of the people in Tipperary who have contributed to the national campaign to secure the moral and Human Right to water for future generations. We need real water services and support in Tipperary not the situation we saw over the Christmas where flood support and response from Irish Water was dismal.”
“We must protect our asset, protect our ground water from theft and privatization but also from pollution and contamination which is rampant in Tipperary. I will be calling on Tipperary County Council to systematically test our water in a geographically sensible manner. They must also fulfil commitments around ensuring that those responsible for contamination from industrial projects and dumps are held to account for ground water contamination.”
“Sinn Féin are the only national party in Tipperary that stands firm for a constitutional recognition of everyone’s human right to water regardless of their financial ability. We are the only party that can be trusted to abolish Irish Water and to abolish water charges. As your TD I will carry our fight for our water and our water services forward to the Dáil on behalf of everyone in Tipperary society.”
Sinn Féin’s Tipperary General Election candidate Cllr. Séamie Morris has spoken of his continued confidence in his Sports Tourism initiative, and his expectation that 2016 will bring even more to the local economy with 5 groups already booked in from Canada and the US.
Cllr Morris said: “Since the start of this initiative over 900 American, Canadian, German, and UK sports tourists have come to Nenagh. They then used other tourism products from Upperchurch to Ballina and all over Tipperary. Some of the groups return again to the county.”
“I have reason to be confident for 2016, as there are already significant bookings made. This is the latest success in the initiative which I started some years ago. At that time I recognised the potential of a signature Sports Tourism product to contribute to the economy of North Tipperary. I then started the Tipperary Sports Tourism Grant to help other sports organisations all over Tipperary to make us the premier centre of Sports Tourism in the State.”
“Since then everything from international sailing events in Dromineer, to the Tom Semple Hurling and Camogie tournament in Thurles, have been helped by the funds drawn down from my Sports Tourism Grant Scheme.”
“I quickly realised that I needed to set up a product which got the attention of the sports-tour operators who were already in the business of seeking out North American groups for visits to Ireland. While Mayor of Nenagh, on a trip to Boston I met up with a group from Kansas keen to come to Ireland on a rugby trip. I persuaded them to include Nenagh on their itinerary.”
“This led to contact with Irish Rugby Tours, which is owned and run by George Hook Junior. He was delighted to include Nenagh and the Premier Hurling Experience on his itineraries.”
“So far in 2016 we’re looking forward to welcoming Bev Facey Girls High School from Canada, and St Augustine Preparatory School, Old Salesainum School, Fenwick High School, and Neuman University Womens Rugby Team, from the US. Groups vary from 33 to 55 per group, all of whom need accommodation, entertainment, and food.”
“They will all take part in the Premier Hurling Experience, which includes hurling skills, a puc fada competition, and the hurley-making experience with renowned Hurley maker Phil Burke.”
“As a local councillor I have been delighted to be able to provide a vehicle to attract international tourists to Tipperary. I will continue to come up with innovative ideas to put Tipperary on the map for international tourists, and I hope that as TD for the county that I will be able to expand these to become the basis for a jobs initiative. ”
“We want groups in South Tipperary to get involved. There are benefits for all in this scheme. In addition I have also provided €50,000 from Nenagh Town Council for a full all-weather pitch, which the county as a whole does not presently have but certainly needs.”
“Tipperary has so much to offer any international tourist, especially those willing to travel for their sport. With sports and history abounding in both North and South Tipperary, it is my hope to see a major increase in local employment arising from marketing Tipperary as a major tourism product if there is political will to do so. I have that will.”
Sinn Féin’s Tipperary General Election candidate Cllr. Séamie Morris has congratulated RTE and the RTE Investigation Unit for the broadcast of a program revealing corruption among elected officials. The program aired on RTE1 on 2015-12-07, and showed footage of county councillors seeking personal gain for their public work. He states this case reminds him of his own battle against a poor zoning decision which almost saw him in court.
Cllr. Morris said: “The program shown last Monday night was a shocking exposé of the culture of back-handers which still exists for some. An elected councillor has only one responsibility, that’s to look out for the best interests of the people who elected him.”
“It’s not possible to fulfil that responsibility honestly while seeking payment in money or services. I congratulate RTE on bringing such naked corruption to light.”
“Other than the three councillors shown in the program, I am aware that quite a number of other councillors are listed by RTE as having made incorrect declarations. I can understand – at a human level – how easy it is to make one mistake. But when you see two and three properties and other interests not being declared, that’s not a mistake. That’s a breach of ethics. Resignation from the Council should follow such blatant breaches of trust.”
“The public places great trust in us to defend the best interests of their neighbourhoods and localities. To make policy decisions in good faith requires disclosure if there is a potential conflict of interest.”
“Some time back I took part in a Prime Time debate on planning, and even then Councillors from other counties were making decisions in favour of zoning on flood-plains. That’s an example of poor decision making, which can’t ever be in the best interests of the people who will live there.”
“But to see the underhanded money-grabbing conduct on television on a Monday night is utterly shocking, even more so that reading about it in the paper.”
“For the others, who somehow forget to mention a whole farm, and multiple directorships, that’s too big of a mistake to be accidental.”
“I found myself on the receiving end of solicitors letters in 2008 when I referred a dubious planning decisions in Puckane to the Ethics Registrar. Even though it wasn’t in my district, I was the only councillor who stood his ground in support of the residents, and was almost in court because of it. Instead of 30 acres, a massive over-zoning of 105 acres took place in a village with a population of only 200 people. The land has since been de-zoned in keeping with residents wishes, proving the correctness of our position.”
“For the RTE councillors, resigning from their party isn’t sufficient. The only honourable next step for each of the councillors who have been caught out on this occasion, is to resign from their seats.”
Sinn Féin councillors last Friday voted against the proposed council budget for Tipperary in 2016, saying that the budget did not provide enough detail, or reasons to support it. They also drew attention to the rates cut provided to big business at a time when the budget allocation was being reduced.
Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Martin Browne, who described the budget as “disappointing”, said: “We could not vote for a budget that fails to acknowledge a hole of over €400,000. This hole has developed as a result of the state granting a massive rate-break to highly profitable utility companies at the expense of ordinary Tipperary citizens. That rate-break isn’t a once-off, and will apply annually for the remaining years of this council.”
“Voting for this budget would have been an endorsement of the policies of this government, which continue to prioritise the wealthy and minding big business. This affects the ability of the council to deliver vital services on which citizens depend.”
Cllr Davy Dunne said: “There are serious questions about the budgetary process. This rate-break was not included in the pre-budget discussions between Councillors and the Executive. There was insufficient information provided generally, and there was no clarification regarding the impact that the rates cut would have on services in the future.”
“Though there was a pre-budget training and information workshop for councillors, which is to be welcomed, there were only a few words to describe some huge expenditure. For example, ‘Applications’ is allocated just under €1.2m. That’s €100,000 for each letter of tax-payers money. It shouldn’t be necessary to ask for clarifications. In the interests of transparency, more detailed explanations should be provided up front.”
“There is a decrease of €2.8m in the overall funding available to the Council in 2016. There isn’t enough funding in some areas to adequately address issues that are constantly being raised by councillors from all parties. And even as we are faced with this budget, we learn that one of the big utility companies that is to benefit from a rates cut is cutting maintenance power to abandoned estates.”
“This budget exposes the lie that we have a meaningful economic recovery. The recovery isn’t being felt in the funding and supports for local government. That any utility company would simultaneously hinder the work of the Council, while getting a rates-break windfall, just shows how these big corporations act with impunity.”
“Fine Gael and Labour have used a series of budgets to starve local authorities of funding. This is part of the Government mission to undermine local government and centralise power. Big businesses act the way they do because the Government of the day creates the conditions to make that possible.”
Cllr Browne added: “The rates revaluation for big utilities is just another example of Coalition interference with local democracy. Their approach is centred on penalising local authorities, and stripping of them of their ability to deliver services.”