Eoghan Murphy has said that if his party is returned to government, he wants to stay on as housing minister.
Speaking at a campaign event regarding social housing, Mr Murphy, who survived a motion of no confidence during his tenure, answered categorically “Yes” when asked if he would like to return to the portfolio if Fine Gael is elected to government after February 8.
“I have been quite clear that the job that we have started in housing when Fine Gael got the housing brief in 2016 and we started to make some inroads in the problems we face, and I think I have made some important reforms in the last couple of years,” he said.
“Speeding up the planning process, we’re going to see many more apartments built because of the changes we made to the Department of Planning, I increased the amount of money we’re spending on social housing by 30%, regulating Airbnb, where we need to do more, in particular hiring resources and getting on in enforcement, and there are more things I want to do.
Eoghan Murphy says that if he and his party is returned to government, he wants to stay on as Housing Minister and says there is "more for me to do". #GE2020— aoife-grace moore. (@aoifegracemoore) January 17, 2020
“I think given where we are in the housing cycle, I think it’s important that we continue with the plans that we have and we improve on what we can, and where we know we need to, and I would like the opportunity to continue what I’ve been doing so far.”
The party was holding a media event on social housing, an area in which the party has been consistently criticised by its political rivals as Ireland’s homeless crisis shows no major signs of abating.
Fine Gael said it is delivering the largest social housing programme in decades and will ensure that 60,000 social houses are provided over the next five years.
“Ten thousand social houses were provided last year and 11,000 will be this year”, Mr Murphy added.
“I don’t want anyone resigning from that commitment (to social housing), we’re putting in plans that responsibilities given to local authorities can’t be taken away from them, regardless of who is minister.”
Fine Gael party sources said they are braced for housing to be a major issue on the doorsteps, and in the days since the election was called, more widely publicised issues around homelessness have come to the fore.
On Tuesday, a homeless man was left seriously injured following an incident in Dublin city centre.
The man was sleeping in a tent near the Grand Canal when it was removed by an industrial vehicle during works to tidy the canal walkway.
On Wednesday, a homeless woman in her twenties died in a hostel in Dublin.
Official Government figures show that 10,448 people are currently homeless in Ireland, 3,752 of whom are children.