06 Jul 2022

Laois councillors feel 'snubbed' by Minister for Housing Darragh O'Brien

Laois councillors 'snubbed' by Minister for Housing Darragh O'Brien

At the CBS Regeneration Project Portlaoise: Cllr Paschal McEvoy, Cllr Catherine Fitzgerald, Housing Minister Darragh O'Brien, Minister Sean Fleming, Cllr Thomasina Connell, Cllr Padraig Fleming.

Most Laois councillors have been snubbed by the Minister for Housing in his recent visit to Laois, and they are not happy about it.

In April all of the councillors wrote to demand a face to face meeting with Minister Darragh O’Brien, to demand action on the housing shortage. They claim that nobody with a job can qualify for a council home, because Laois is in the lowest income limit.

Cllr Catherine Fitzgerald had suggested “we’ll go up the 19 of us” while Cllr Ollie Clooney said “it won’t be a 9 to 5 job, we’ll stay there until he meets us”.

In mid May, the Minister arrived for a quick visit to Laois, touring three social housing building sites with Laois County Council staff. Only a handful of councillors were invited to meet him, mostly from his Fianna Fáil party, with Fianna Fáil Minister Sean Fleming the only Laois TD there. 

Just two Fine Gael councillors were invited; the council Cathaoirleach Cllr Conor Bergin who was unavailable, and Cllr Thomasina Connell who is the chair of the Laois housing strategic policy committee.

While Minister O’Brien addressed the Laois housing crisis to the Leinster Express during his visit (read below), and Cllr O’Connell made the case for Laois to him, the visit raised councillors’ hackles at the May council meeting this week.

Cllr Ollie Clooney accused Fianna Fáil colleagues of doing “a solo run”.

“I was completely snubbed. He came to my patch in Durrow and I didn’t even know. I may be an Independent but I stand up for my rights, I won’t be snubbed,” he said.

Cllr Willie Aird asked what did the Minister say, as “we weren’t there”.

“It’s not a question of who was at it, it’s what questions were asked. If we knew a review of the threshold was going to change it, it would give people some hope. Please will somebody do something for these people. The first I seen was when I read the local paper, it’s not good enough,” he said.

“He’s a Minister for all not just Fianna Fáil. Fianna Fáil were the only ones at the meeting plus Thomasina because he couldn’t not invite her,” said Fine Gael Cllr Aisling Moran.

Cllr John Joe Fennelly said that he requested inviting Cllr Connell as he was unavailable.

“I suggested inviting the Chair of the SPC, it was the proper thing to do,” he said.

Cllr Connell gave a brief report.

“He said the income threshold is under review, and it would be complete before the end of the summer. I was asked at short notice to attend, I wasn’t doing the inviting on the day,” she said.

The CEO John Mulholland agreed.

“I concur with Cllr Connell, this was not organised or managed by Laois County Council. The Minister wanted to meet myself and the housing team. It was not what we would consider a normal official visit. There was a meeting later that we weren’t privy to,” he said.

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