Dáil to debate rent reform proposals despite uncertainty over Fianna Fáil support

Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are at odds over the size of the proposed cap and the areas it would apply to

Dáil to debate rent reform proposals despite uncertainty over Fianna Fáil support

Simon Coveney speaks to the media in Dublin 07/04/2016. Image: Brian Lawless PA Archive/PA Images

The Dáil is to debate the Government's rent reforms today - despite uncertainty if Fianna Fáil will support them.

After a morning of rows in the Dáil, the legislation will now go back on the agenda and be debated until late tonight and again tomorrow if necessary.

TDs were due to start debating Simon Coveney's new plan for rent caps in high-pressure areas this morning.

However, TDs were told the legislation had been pulled off the Dáil schedule - just minutes before the debate was due to start.

Housing Minister Simon Coveney initially pulled the legislation from the Dáil business, saying he was not prepared to preside over flawed legislation.

"I cannot agree to take a Government bill in Government time if I do not know what the outcome is going to be at report stage," he told the Dáil.

The initial postponement of the debate drew objection from opposition parties.

Labour leader Brendan Howlin said: "The proposal that we simply not deal with it, or we might have a revised order later in the day if [there's] an agreement between two parties in this house is wholly unacceptable. It is not only unacceptable [...] it is an insult to the rest of us."

Fianna Fáil's Michéal Martin, meanwhile, argued: "I don't believe the bill should have been pulled. There was no need to do that.

"As a general point I would make, I think the whole idea of - at the 11th hour in the parliamentary schedule - to bring in substantive legislation pertaining to rent certainty in the last day or two of the session was somewhat reckless and in my view disrespectful to the house. And calculated in a way to get into difficulty," he added.

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald defended the planned caps, saying "there is no point taking actions that are going to reduce supplies".

Fine Gael has indicated it will abandon the proposals unless Fianna Fáil agrees to set the cap at 4%.

Fine Gael says it will not back down from the proposed cap, which would apply to Dublin and Cork. It says if the cap goes any lower, landlords will be scared off.

However, Fianna Fáil has said the 4% is too high - and arranged a Dáil vote for this afternoon on lowering the proposed cap to 2%.

It also wants the scheme extended beyond Dublin and Cork.

Junior Minister Damien English says that cannot happen without the Residential Tenancies Board's backing.

Speaking to Newstalk Breakfast, he explained: "What we want to bring in is legislation that's fair to everybody here, and that's practical.

"The decision to include an area cannot be a political decision - it has to be the RTB, based on their research and on their data."

Last night Enda Kenny told Fine Gael TDs that unless the cap stays at 4%, the plan will be scrapped entirely.

The two parties were involved in talks until late last night over the issue.

Group Political Editor with Independent News & Media, Kevin Doyle, spoke to Newstalk Breakfast about the dispute.

"I spoke to both [Fianna Fáil housing spokesperson] Barry Cowen and [Housing Minister] Simon Coveney after the talks collapsed around 11.30pm," he explained. "I don't know what the atmosphere was in the room, but I would certainly say both were very frustrated - and that's to put it diplomatic.

"The 4% issue - it seems that Fianna Fáil were willing in the end to live with that. What the thing collapsed over was actually the designation of these 'rent pressure zones'. Fianna Fáil wanted them extended beyond Dublin and Cork city, they wanted Galway, Limerick and Waterford included.

"They also wanted commuter belts - places in Wicklow, Kildare, Meath, Louth - included. Simon Coveney said he couldn't put that in the legislation that was supposed to go before the Dáil today because he needed more research [...] There just wasn't time. He said the earliest any of that could be done would be mid-January to the end of February," he added.