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Housing promise not ‘smooth delivery’ of 50,000 per year


Fine Gael leader Simon Harris has said that he wants to bring a “renewed focus” to the issue of housing, adding that his promise of 250,000 homes between 2025 and 2030 was not going to mean a “smooth delivery” of 50,000 a year.

Speaking on RTÉ’s The Week in Politics, Mr Harris said it was not a fair assertion that he was now presiding over a party which has turned a generation of people into so-called “generation rent”.

Mr Harris said that Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was correct when he said 50,000 houses a year not doable, but said that he did not make a promise of delivering 50,000 homes a year, rather 250,000 homes between 2025-2030

He said that the 250,000 homes by 2030 was a commitment he made and where Ireland needs to be, adding that the 33,000 houses target was going to be exceeded this year.

“It’s not just about setting a target, it’s about increasing the scale of ambition… we must do more and we need to lift our ambition,” he said.

He said that the number of homes being built now was “encouraging” but he believed more can be done.

Mr Harris suggested that this could be done through maintaining the Help To Buy scheme, extending the waver on development levies, and continuing the rent tax credit so that young people can save for a mortgage.

“Housing is the biggest challenge facing our generation. We are making progress,” he said.

“You have to show people how you will get there and that’s what I’m trying to do with our plan”.

Cabinet re-shuffle

Mr Harris said that he had not made any decision yet in terms of a Cabinet re-shuffle, adding it was not about personalities, but about delivery.

He said that the most important thing was someone’s ability to do the job, and also “advance the agenda” of the party.

He described Cabinet reshuffles as “lonely and difficult” decisions to make, adding that a range of factors need to be considered when putting Cabinet together.

He said that no matter what he does in relation to the re-shuffle, someone will think there was a better way of doing it.

“I will do my very best to put a team both of ministers and ministers of state together, and everybody in our parliamentary party will have an important role to play,” he said.

He added that the future of the party was about reconnecting on core priorities, and that the “woke labels” were not helpful.

He added that Fine Gael needed to connect with people and parts of society that used to vote for Fine Gael and are currently not as pleased with the party, citing the farming and small business communities as being key.

Immigration

On immigration, Mr Harris said that Ireland is not full and that it depends on immigration.

“It’s not contradictory to say that it’s really important to have a rules based system”.

“Irish people are very fair, but immigration is a relatively new concept in this country”.

He said that Irish people want rules in place and an efficient application of the rules, adding that it was “political populism” to think that Ireland could go it alone on this issue of global migration and did not need to work with other European countries.

Recognising Palestine

Mr Harris said that Ireland should recognise the state of Palestine, but that as Taoiseach, he wanted to engage with party leaders and European counterparts on this to “move together”.

“The violence has to stop, we need a ceasefire immediately. We need the aid flowing”.

“I want to find practical ways to help the Palestinian people”.

He said that trade is a European competency in relation to Israel, and there needed to be a two-state solution and cessation of all violence, and that he would raise this at the next European Council meeting he attends.


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