Longford general election candidates in public spat over housing crisis

Claims local authority staff were "browbeaten" into tweeting successes of housing statistics locally branded "outrageous"

Liam Cosgrove

Reporter:

Liam Cosgrove

Email:

liam.cosgrove@longfordleader.ie

Housing

General election candidates Cllrs Micheal Carrigy and Joe Flaherty became embroiled in a war of words over housing at last week's county council meeting.

The growing likelihood of an earlier than expected general election has seemingly ramped up the political hostility between the two men vying to become Longford’s next TD.

Cllrs Joe Flaherty and Micheal Carrigy crossed swords at last week’s local authority meeting over the current challenges facing Longford’s housing plight.

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The former took issue with the commendatory approach which had been taken by council officials to the Government’s Rebuilding Ireland housing programme.

Cllr Flaherty said a press release sent out on behalf of the Council and social media commentary that followed at a time when more than 800 people were on its local authority waiting list was indicative of how some officials had been effectively “browbeaten” into taking part into the #Housing Focus week model.

“One third of our labour workforce has a third level qualification and you factor in that we have 822 live applicants on our housing list at the minute, I don’t think it’s an awful lot to be singing about and it’s not something we should be tweeting about,” he said.

The Fianna Fáil general election candidate was speaking following a request made by Cllr Gerry Warnock for councillors to be given a blow by blow breakdown of the number of households across the county that are eligible for social housing support.

In reflecting on the passing of the recent Budget, Cllr Flaherty lauded the part played by Fianna Fáil in bringing about the introduction of an affordable housing programme.

“If you want to put it into context, go back to 2009 when the country was in freefall and that year we were able to deliver 204 new units in the county which included 8 rural new cottages and included 26 houses that were purchased,” said a bullish Cllr Flaherty.

“We also had 24 affordable houses that year and in 2009, one year into a recession, we were able to create 334 social houses in Longford.

“That’s the type of house building programme you can go and shout about and certainly one you can tweet about.”

Director of Services John Brannigan was quick to take up Cllr Flaherty on his claims local authority staff had been coerced into rhyming out figures on behalf of the Government.

“Nobody was browbeaten in the housing staff last week to tweet out any information,” he said.

“We were highlighting information on the building programme we are doing.

“The housing staff are working very hard, going from a base of building no new houses in the county to building over 50 new houses this year and we are building on that year on year.”

But it was when Cllr Flaherty’s rivalling Fine Gael opposite number, Cllr Micheal Carrigy intervened that caused the biggest stir inside the chamber.

“They are outrageous remarks to say people were browbeat into sending out tweets,” said an indignant Cllr Carrigy.

“I think both Minister (Damien) English (Minister of State for Housing) and Minister (Eoghan) Murphy (Housing Minister) are doing an excellent job in difficult circumstances.

“The housing section and executive of Longford County Council are working hard in developing projects throughout the county.”

The Fine Gael group leader also said he was pleased to note Cllr Flaherty’s acceptance that the country was “in freefall” in 2009, adding: “We all know who was in government then.”