The Social Democrats today set out the party’s priorities for the new Dáil term, with a focus on effective measures to address people’s housing and health needs, ensure sustainable economic growth, and tackle corruption.
Speaking ahead of the resumption of the Dáil after the summer break, the party’s joint leaders said tackling the ongoing crises in health and housing requires solutions based on brave and honest decision-making and a willingness to tackle vested interests.
Deputy Catherine Murphy TD said:
“As we face into a new Dáil session, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are engaged in Punch and Judy-style theatrics, beating each other up about the budget. Meanwhile, back in the real world, the housing crisis is deepening with more and more people falling into homelessness or struggling to keep roofs over their heads.”
“With the predictable annual trolley crisis looming, senior doctors are already warning that our acute hospitals are beginning to fail. What we need for this crucial Dáil term is a real focus on tackling these very fundamental issues – and that requires taking bold decisions and tackling vested interests,” added Deputy Róisín Shortall TD
Turning to the area of anti-corruption, Deputy Shortall said the party would continue to urge the government to adopt its proposals for the establishment of a robust and fully resourced Independent Anti-Corruption Agency to tackle white-collar crime and corruption in the corporate world and political spheres.
“Despite all the talk about how this government will tackle corruption, there was no sign of any urgency on that front in the government’s autumn legislative programme published yesterday. Instead, what we got was a re-heat of a corruption bill originally published five years ago.
“We will never properly get to grips with the endemic nature of corruption unless we start to see actual consequences for corrupt behaviour and the rigorous prevention, detection and prosecution of corruption and white-collar crime,” said Deputy Shortall.
The Social Democrats’ housing priorities for the autumn term include measures to curb land hoarding, free up vacant sites and ensure efficient and prompt delivery of affordable housing.
Deputy Murphy said:
“It’s time the government tackled speculators instead of tolerating them because there is evidence of land hoarding on a very large scale and this is having a hugely negative impact on so many people’s lives. We are advocating a ‘use it or lose it’ policy to stop speculators from holding onto land that could be used to help stem the current housing crisis. We simply can’t continue to tolerate a situation where speculators are dictating housing policy in this country.
“Government often hides behind the constitutional provision which they claim gives precedent to private property rights over the public good. This should either be challenged in the courts or changed in the Constitution by way of a referendum.”
The housing priorities include:
- A dedicated Housing Delivery Agency as a powerful coordinating body charged with contracting builders and activating publicly-controlled land banks across different local authorities.
- The Social Democrats will bring forward a Bill to introduce transparency about land ownership and land price sales so that we can know who owns what where and how much they are paying for it. Land hoarding is a real threat to the public interest.
- The Government should accept the Social Democrats’ Urban Regeneration Bill (2017) which would raise levies on vacant sites the longer a site remains vacant. The Bill also gets rid of anomalies that allow land-owners avoid the levy.
Deputy Shortall concluded that when it comes to government spending, the priorities must be on good quality public services and measures to reduce the cost of living.
“Overall, we need to see government spending with an emphasis on good quality public services for all, rather than further eroding the tax base. We continue to prioritise housing and a series of cost of living measures. It is also crucial that we see concrete steps towards the phasing in of the Sláintecare plan for fundamental reform of our health system,” she added.