A Fianna Fáil TD’s analogy comparing extending the eviction ban to “making sweets free for children” was not a good one, the Taoiseach has said.
Leo Varadkar was commenting after former government minister Barry Cowen apologised to anyone who had been offended by his remarks in the Dáil on Wednesday.
“I don’t think it was a good analogy, and I’m sure he would agree that they weren’t the correct words to use,” he said.
Mr Varadkar made the remarks as he visited a new housing development in Co Wicklow on Thursday.
Mr Cowen has faced criticism from opposition TDs after drawing the analogy as he argued that extending the eviction ban might be popular in the short term but would have a negative effect in the longer term.
“It’s like making sweets free for children, it’s fine for a little while but ultimately detrimental to the greater need,” he told the Dáil.
On Wednesday, the Government saw off a motion of confidence over its housing policy and also defeated a Sinn Féin bid to extend the temporary moratorium on no-fault evictions.
The evictions ban, which was introduced at the end of October last year as part of measures responding to the cost-of-living crisis, will run out at the end of March as originally intended.
Critics of the decision to end the moratorium claim it will result in the current record levels of homelessness soaring even higher, while the Government has insisted that prolonging the measure will see more landlords leave the rental market, reducing an already low supply of accommodation further.
On Thursday, Mr Cowen explained why he had made the comment.
“What I said was just an analogy in an effort to get the message across that short-term solutions don’t always work in the long term,” he told RTE Radio One.
He added: “I am sorry if people were offended by what I said. It certainly wasn’t my intention. My intention was to focus on issues, solutions that are available, that have been made available, that need to be concentrated on.”
In his contribution in the Dail, Mr Cowen said opposition parties should put more focus on supporting the Government’s tenant-in-situ scheme that encourages local authorities to buy up properties where a notice of eviction has been served to a household in receipt of state supports.
Mr Varadkar said he agreed with that sentiment.
“One thing he said which really resonated with me actually yesterday was he said that the tenant-in-situ is working,” he said.
“And he asked the opposition to work the scheme, instead of knocking the scheme and I totally agree with him on that.”
Mr Varadkar joined Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien on Thursday morning as they visited Cairn Ltd’s housing project in Delgany, Co Wicklow.
“It’s exactly the kind of model we want to see more around the country,” said Mr Varadkar.
“There’s a good mix of housing here. There’s private housing for people to buy, there’s also social housing for people on the housing list, and there’s cost rental housing as well – a new form of public housing in Ireland that is making affordable rents available to people who don’t qualify for social housing and aren’t able to buy their own home yet.
"And it’s good cooperation between the private sector and also the public sector in the form of the LDA (Land Development Agency).
“A lot of reasons I think for hope. I appreciate we’re facing a very deep housing crisis at the moment, but there’s a lot of good things happening as well, and I think this is a perfect example of that.”