A vote on the Government’s contentious move to lift the ban on evictions is set to be “very, very tight”, Sinn Fein has predicted.
The party’s motion calling on the Government to reverse its decision and instead extend the ban on no-fault terminations of tenancy until the new year will be debated in the Dail on Tuesday evening.
The Cabinet was meeting on Tuesday morning to finalise a Government countermotion to the Sinn Fein proposal. A vote is set to be held on the countermotion on Wednesday.
Several independent TDs have yet to declare whether they will back the Government in the vote.
The temporary prohibition on evictions, which was introduced in November, will run out at the end of the month as scheduled, despite the Government facing calls from homelessness campaigners and opposition parties to extend the ban.
While critics of the move claim it will result in the current record levels of homelessness soaring even higher, the Government has insisted that prolonging the measure will see more landlords leave the rental market, reducing an already low supply of accommodation further.
Sinn Fein’s motion calling for an extension is non-binding but the party’s housing spokesman, Eoin O’Broin, insisted it is not purely symbolic.
He said a defeat for the Government would represent a “huge blow” which would force it to change its decision.
“It’s called political pressure,” Mr O’Broin told reporters outside Leinster House on Tuesday.
“The opposition obviously have a range of mechanisms to put pressure on Government; this is one of them.
“It’s clear that the Government’s decision to end the ban is not only unpopular, but there is a sense among many people in the Dail that they think it’s unwise.
“I think people have a choice – do they want to put pressure on Government to reverse the decision or not?”
Mr O’Broin said the vote will be “very, very tight”.
“There is a significant number of independents who are indicating they are going to vote against the Government because they are unhappy how they are handling this crisis,” he said.
“I just want to make a last-minute appeal to all members of the House, particularly to all the independents, and Fianna Fail and Green backbenchers, if you do not want homelessness to increase significantly in April and May and June then vote with us in this motion.
“What that will do is send a strong signal to Government that the Oireachtas does not support their proposals to end the ban on eviction and puts pressure on them to reverse that decision before the eviction ban ends on the 31st of this month.”
Labour has indicated it will support the Sinn Fein motion on extending the ban.
Party leader Ivana Bacik said Ireland faces a “tsunami of evictions” if the ban is lifted.
“We’re hearing this not just from the many, many individuals who are contacting us in distress every day, but we’re also hearing it from frontline workers and those working in homelessness, and indeed we’re hearing it from local authorities who are desperately concerned about how they are going to find emergency accommodation, and that emergency accommodation is already full even before the ban lifts,” she said.
“We are calling on Government to agree to extend the ban.”
Ms Bacik made clear that her party will proceed with a motion of no confidence in the Government next week if ministers refuse to change course.
“We don’t do this lightly,” she said. “I’m conscious this is a big thing to do, to put down a motion of no confidence in Government. But the overwhelming evidence, the overwhelming stories, the overwhelming account we’re hearing from people in such distress, and indeed from homeless agencies, council authorities and from our councillors…
“I think all of this compounded and combined serves to tell us that this is the right decision to take if Government doesn’t act, and there is time for Government still to act.”
Labour has drafted emergency legislation to indefinitely extend the eviction ban while providing for an “evidence-based mechanism” for lifting it by order of the minister if homelessness figures fall for four months in a row.
Green Party TD Neasa Hourigan has already confirmed she will vote against the Government on the issue.
Ms Hourigan has previously voted against the Government and lost the Green Party whip for six months last year.
Social Democrats TD Cian O’Callaghan claimed the Green Party has capitulated to the two bigger parties in the coalition – Fine Gael and Fianna Fail – in agreeing to lift the evictions ban.
He branded the Government move “utterly reprehensible”.
“Being in Government is about negotiations, it’s about compromise, it’s not about capitulation, and what we’re seeing here is the Green Party have completely capitulated on this,” he said.
“I don’t think anyone who voted for the Greens in the last election expected that Green TDs would be supporting measures that would increase homelessness and drive potentially thousands of families into homelessness at a time that homelessness is at record levels.
“The Government’s response in this, I think, has not been credible. And it’s an unprecedented decision that they’re making.
“They have admitted themselves this would see – at a time of record homelessness – this would see homelessness increase further.”
People Before Profit–Solidarity TD Richard Boyd Barrett said the Government is poised to turn a “dire crisis into a total social disaster” if it proceeds with lifting the evictions ban.
He urged people “to take to the streets in protest” on a planned march in Dublin on April 1.
He also urged tenants to stay put if they are evicted and have nowhere else to go.
“We also reiterate our support for anybody who was faced with the possibility of eviction we believe has the right to resist that and to overhold, and we will absolutely support them right the way down the line,” he said.
“If families have nowhere to go because they’re evicted they have every right not to move, to stay where they are, in order to put pressure on the Government to actually address their housing situation.”