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Homelessness on the agenda as new TDs spend first day in the Dail

Eoghan Murphy Photo: Niall Carson/PA

The four newest TDs in Dail Eireann have started work after their by-election wins at the weekend.

The four men from Fianna Fail, Sinn Fein and the Green Party were presented to the media the morning before Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy narrowly survived a vote of no-confidence tabled by the Social Democrats last week in response to a homeless crisis they say shows no signs of abating.

The vote of no confidence was defeated by 56 votes to 53 – with 35 abstentions – on Tuesday evening.

Mr Murphy’s fate dominated earlier press events as each candidate was asked about the motion which could trigger a general election, and see them fight for their seat before they had even spent a month in the chamber.

Fianna Fail and the Government claim a no-confidence vote on Mr Murphy will cause a general election, but the opposition says the Taoiseach can simply replace his minister to avoid any snap polls over the festive period.

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Fianna Fail, which labelled the Social Democrats’ motion as a “stunt”, made it clear its TDs would be abstaining.

Padraig O’Sullivan, representing Cork North-Central, and Malcolm Byrne, who claimed a seat in Wexford, said they were happy to abstain despite their feelings about Mr Murphy’s tenure.

“After the challenge of a November election, and being on three ballot papers already this year, I don’t really want to be on a fourth around Christmas,” Mr Byrne said.

“It’s clear from knocking on doors the last few months, on issues like housing and health in rural Ireland, this Government is seen to have failed.”

Party leader Micheal Martin said: “To be fair to the Social Democrats, to table a motion during a by-election, that’s their prerogrative, but I don’t think anyone is serious about there being a by-election in and around Christmas Day.”

The rest of the weekend’s winners backed the motion to remove Mr Murphy.

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Sinn Fein’s Mark Ward, who represents Dublin Mid-West, said he would be happy to hit the doors again in a few weeks.

“That’s the mandate that I was asked to come here with,” he said.

“The people on the doors are just not happy with Eoghan Murphy and his failed polices, and it’s not just people homeless in hubs and hotels – it’s people who can’t afford houses or rent. I had to move back in with my parents because of the rents out there.

“I’m quite happy to vote no confidence.”

Asked if she wanted an election, Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald said: “Sure, we’re out anyway, our people are out canvassing, and whenever the election comes we’ll be fighting for a big win for the Irish people.”

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Green Party candidate Joe O’Brien, for Dublin Fingal, said the Housing Minister’s time was up.

“We’re supportive of the motion. I can’t think of a better reason to force an election than 3,873 homeless children. He’s had his time, the numbers are going up. Do I have confidence in him? Not at all,” he said.

According to Government figures, 10,397 people, including 3,873 children, are homeless.

The average rent in Ireland is 8% higher than last year and homelessness has gone up 354% since 2014.