Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Publication of report and Taoiseach's appearance at tribunal show time has come to move on speculators

7 April, 2004

Speaking following the Publication of the ninth progress report of the Oirchtas All-Party Committee of the Constitution on Property Rights, Committee member and Sinn Fein spokesperson on Housing, Arthur Morgan T.D. has called on the Taoiseach to act on the report in order to demonstrate that his attachment to developers/speculators responsible for his appearance at the Mahon Tribunal today is a thing of the past. Deputy Morgan went on to outline what Sinn Féin saw as the key recommendations while making it clear that the party had difficulty with a number of elements contained in the Report.

Deputy Morgan said, "That a small number of developers and speculators were making huge profits on the backs of the inability of ordinary citizens to access housing is a shameful indictment of successive governments in this State. Sinn Fein is calling on Bertie Ahern to demonstrate that Fianna Fáil policy on these issues is no longer dictated by their close association with developers and speculators whose interest they have protected throughout recent decades.

"Sinn Féin made a substantive submission to the Committee and welcomes the fact that the Committee as a whole has taken on board the overriding principal put forward in our submission that social justice and the common good must be given precedence over the rights of private property if we are to address the housing needs of our citizens.

"While looking at many of the proposals as positive we need to accept that the Government parties have a majority on this committee and the likelihood of any radical proposals making it past the bulwark of government backbenchers which fill out such a committee is extremely unlikely. While looking at this report we should not forget that the one positive piece of legislation which enabled the government to recoup some of the windfall gains made by property developers and utilize it for the common good, the Planning and Development Act 2000 which required all developments to have 20% social and affordable housing was watered down as to make it unrecognisable by Minister Cullen in 2002. That move in itself indicates the Government is far from serious about tackling this issue.

"Sinn Fein welcomes:

  • The recommendation that the Community should recoup the increase in value of land arising from decisions being taken by local authorities
  • The recommendation that local authorities be given the power to compulsorily purchase land at current use value, similar to what was proposed in the Kenny report, to provide for social and affordable housing.
  • The recommendation that the Government should prepare legislation for the abolition of ground rents and the fact that the Report clearly states that there is no constitutional impediment to their abolition while putting forward a practical proposal on compensation scheme to be provided for in the legislation abolishing ground rents. As the most fervourent voice in the Committee calling for the abolition of ground rents both myself and my part colleagues will pursue the government until this recommendations is acted upon."

Deputy Morgan went on to emphasise that Sinn Féin could not accept a number elements contained in the Report and made it clear that there was no opportunity to record minority views in the Committee's report.

"Sinn Féin has difficulties with large parts of Chapter 2 which addresses the "dynamics of the property market" and which is inconsistent with the other chapters of the report. It does not accurately reflect the conclusions of the committee expressed in other parts of the report regarding the role that the hoarding of land and land prices play in driving up the price of houses. At the Committee I raised my deep concerns at the fact that this section of the report was being authored by a person who had made a submission to the Committee and therefore was an interested party and was biased in his views. I continue to believe this was a fundamental mistake.

"We also had difficulty with the fact that the Committee failed to make a decision on the right to housing despite the fact that a large number of written and oral submission were made and accepted on this issue." ENDS

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