Government shows contempt for renters by withholding information on eviction ban

Ivana Bacik TD
22 April 2023
  • Evidence clearly provided but ignored by Minister O’Brien
  • FOIs reveal Department of Housing had sight of preliminary Q4 figures on 19th January

Labour leader and housing spokesperson Ivana Bacik has condemned Government for its decision to withhold information from the public in relation to the level of eviction notices issued, prior to taking the indefensible decision to lift the temporary ban on no-fault evictions.

Deputy Bacik said that this withholding of information also impacted on the debate on Labour’s motion of no confidence in the Government following its decision to lift the eviction ban.

Deputy Bacik said:

“The manner in which Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party have approached crucial decision making on the eviction ban is deeply disappointing. Their apparent wilful refusal to engage with evidence prior to making the decision to lift the ban is symptomatic of a coalition of convenience that merely lurches from crisis to crisis to stay in power. FOI responses now show that Government knew the extent of the eviction crisis prior to making its decision to lift the eviction ban, but attempted to pull the wool over the eyes of the opposition and public by keeping this vital information to itself.

“I have called for the publication of the full suite of advice received by Government so the public can have a clear understanding of what evidence was relied upon by Government in making the decision to lift the eviction ban. A key question remains whether political pressure was in fact applied to the RTB to delay the release of Q4 figures from 2022 on notices to quit received by renters just to save Government’s skin. It’s truly outrageous to see such delays in disclosure of crucial information, but we are well used to seeing Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil hiding behind the advice of the Attorney General when making tough decisions.

“Late on Friday evening, I received correspondences in relation to FOIs I put down on the lifting of the eviction ban. I will spend the weekend assessing the information and correspondences, but right now it is evident that more clarity will be needed from Minister O’Brien and his Department.

“For example, one piece of correspondence reveals that the initial planned date for publication of Q4 figures was March 20th, as per an email dated March 10th. Pressure was clearly applied to the RTB to kick this date out to save Government’s skin during the no confidence vote on Labour’s motion. As always with this coalition, Ministers have to be dragged kicking and screaming to the truth.

“In light of the publication of the FOIs, with record levels of homelessness, in a week where charities and NGOs released data showing the full extent of firefighting that they are doing on the front lines of the crisis, Government must face up to the fact that the eviction ban must be reinstated until there is an evidence basis in place for its lifting.

“Government utterly failed to put in place contingency plans for people who have received notices to quit. Why was a ‘one stop shop’ to triage queries not put in place during the duration of the eviction ban, for example? Labour wrote to Minister O’Brien in advance of the lifting of the ban asking him how best we can help people at risk of eviction. He has yet to reply and I suspect that’s because he doesn’t have any answers.

“Even the Government’s own panacea, the ‘first refusal’ plan for renters when their landlord is selling up, has been announced without any detail or planning, as responses to Parliamentary Questions put forward by the Labour Party reveal. Even if Government had a plan to implement such a scheme, the majority of renters are simply not in a position to purchase a home given the astronomical rents they are being charged. It’s the hallmark of this Government’s approach – all spin, no solutions.

“Government has lost control of the housing market. With record levels of GDP, everyone should have a home and a roof over their heads. It is a fundamental right that this Government has failed to deliver on.

“Short-termism to get through the crisis of the day is this Government’s approach. Just look at reports of a now anticipated mini-Housing Budget in the forthcoming weeks. It’s recognition that Housing For All has failed, that Minister O’Brien’s plan is not working, but he’s too proud to admit it.

“That’s fine for him and his coalition colleagues, the public will have their say in due course. But it is of little comfort to the thousands of renters who will have nowhere to go once their notice to quit takes effect. We are calling on this conservative coalition to do the right thing and reinstate the eviction ban.”

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