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30th Mar 2023

TD Barry Cowen slated for his comments on lifting of eviction ban

Rory Fleming

The incident is the latest controversy surrounding the lifting of the eviction ban.

Fianna Fáil TD Barry Cowen has faced widespread backlash over comments he made in the Dáil chamber on Wednesday regarding the government’s contentious lifting of the eviction ban.

The comments were made in an exchange during the coalition government’s overcoming of a Sinn Féin proposal to extend the eviction ban.

TD Barry Cowen criticised for his comments on the lifting of eviction ban.

Defeating the opposition motion by a margin of 81 votes to 67 on Wednesday evening, the government’s lifting of the eviction ban will take place as planned, with the pandemic provision set to expire by April 1st.

Responding to criticisms levelled at the government, Cowen, who is the brother of former Taoiseach and Fianna Fáil leader Barry, said that “The crisis relating to evictions though, is of course immediate, we all agree on that”.

The TD for the Laois-Offaly constituency then challenged the opposition parties themselves, for what he insinuated as not working in good faith with the government to rectify the ever-worsening housing crisis.

“Wouldn’t you think opposition members would assist their councillor colleagues by exerting influence on councils to respond positively to the government’s recent instructions”, Cowen said.

The instructions to which the TD is referencing include the much-maligned tenant-in-situ scheme, which saw the government’s policy of attempting to empower local councils to purchase properties from landlords fail to an almost comical degree.

Under 3 per cent of properties offered by landlords to county councils were ultimately purchased, leading to the policy’s failure to conjure any significant or meaningful change when dealing with the lack of affordable housing.

Cowen then proceeded to offer an analogy between the eviction ban and sweets, a decision which has seen the TD face widespread criticism online for what many observers viewed as downplaying a serious issue which impacts much of society.

“Keeping or extending the ban isn’t necessarily going to solve this crisis into the future. It’s like making sweets free for children. It’s fine for a little while, but ultimately detrimental to the greater need”, said Cowen.

In response to the backlash the Fianna Fáil TD has faced, Cowen doubled down on Wednesday’s comments, which he defended by saying “It was just an analogy in an effort to prove that further eviction was merely a stopgap solution rather than a concrete measure which people demand”.

Some of the fiercest criticism from the opposition towards the remarks of Cowen have been from Labour’s Aodhán Ó Riordáin and the Social Democrat TD Cian O’Callaghan, with Cowen responding directly to the pair’s condemnations.

Ó Riordáin, a TD for Dublin Bay North, labelled the comparison made by the government TD as “disgraceful”, whilst O’Callaghan, who represents the same constituency, described Cowen’s comments as “lacking compassion”

“It is pedantic, a focus on words, not the message”, stated the Fianna Fáil TD, before adding “I can’t understand it. Aodhán Ó Riordáin and Cian O’Callaghan are looking to shift attention away from their own (positions)”.

However, Cowen did also offer an apology of sorts when stating “If what I said was offensive, it wasn’t meant to be. It’s a pity and I’m sorry that some people might have been offended but it certainly wasn’t my intention to do so”.

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