‘Irish Times’ reports
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern described Socialist Party TD Joe Higgins as a "failed person" and told him to "go away" during heated exchanges on the cost of housing.
Mr Higgins said that house prices had increased on the Taoiseach’s watch. "He failed cataclysmically to stop the unbridled speculation by developers and house builders. Of course, that was deliberate. The matter goes all the way back to the devil’s pact made between Fianna Fáil and house builders and speculators in the 1960s. They bought the party’s councillors, who in turn corrupted planning in Dublin, and perhaps other areas, and created the nightmare we now have.
"They got everything they wanted. They bought the party’s former leader, who the Taoiseach eulogised unstintingly last Friday. The VIP pen in the Donnycarney church was like a major house builders’ convention.
"Oddly enough, the politicians were probably the poorest people there, with the exception of some of the Taoiseach’s colleagues who are publicans, landlords or dabblers in hairdressing salons in Moscow for the Russian nouveau riche."
Mr Ahern said that about 20 new homes were produced annually per 1,000 of the population compared to an EU average of five. The State was providing houses for young people at four times the average rate.
He asked Mr Higgins if he wished to drag the State back to a time when people had no salaries and no jobs. "He has a failed ideology and the most hopeless policy pursued by any nitwit. He is a failed person who was rejected and whose political philosophy has been rejected.
"He will not pull people back into the failed old policies he dreamed up in south Kerry when he was a young fellow. Now go away."
Earlier, Mr Higgins said that the house price index made chilling reading for tens of thousands of young working people in in need of homes.
"In March 1996, the average price of a home in Dublin was €82,000. This year, 10 years later, it is €384,000, an increase of €300,000. That represents a shocking €30,000 increase per year, the equivalent of the current average industrial wage each year for 10 years. Prices outside Dublin have increased pro rata.
"Is there any appreciation by the Government of the dire situation facing young people who earn the average industrial wage and need a home, or any recognition of the hardship of young parents who are saddled with 30- and 40-year mortgages?
"Are members of the Government so cosseted by their massive salaries that they are oblivious to the suffering, hardship and desperation?"
Mr Higgins said that speculators were buying houses in working class communities left, right and centre. "A frightening percentage of homes in hitherto stables communities are now rented. Stable communities are being replaced by transient communities, by people who are forced into the laps of landlords, such as migrant workers and those on rent supplement."
Mr Ahern said that house price increases were primarily driven by the increase in demand for housing. "Now that we have stopped mass emigration by working class people, unemployed trade unionists and those who lived in working class communities but had to seek refuge in Australia, Canada, the United States and Britain, people are again living in the working-class areas which the deputy and I represent."
by Michael O’Regan
Comrade Joe is told he should go away as Bertie loses his cool
Dáil Sketch, By Marie O’Halloran
Socialist Party deputy Joe Higgins stands out in the Dáil in many respects. His is a one-TD party. He is a witty contributor. He is the designated speaker for the independent deputies on Leaders’ Questions in the technical group.
But, perhaps most significantly, he is the one deputy who really gets under the skin of fellow socialist Taoiseach Bertie Ahern. And yesterday it happened in style. The Taoiseach lost his cool with the Kerryman in a blistering attack, calling him a "failed person" with a nitwit’s philosophy.
And Bertie uttered the immortal line: "Now, go away."
Maybe Labour leader Pat Rabbitte softened the ground for the socialist when he highlighted the reported €25 million settlement with Revenue by the Bailey brothers’ company Bovale.
Deputy Rabbitte made several references to the Fianna Fáil tent at the Galway races and its visitors. In fact if Fianna Fáil was paid for every Opposition reference to that famous tent, the party would probably not require any other donations. Joe Higgins would become a major donor as he probably holds the record for most references to the tent.
Pat Rabbitte asked what the Taoiseach was going to do since they were FF members.
Bertie pointed out that most deputies were not against wealth creators but against tax evasion, and he coolly suggested that the last list of Revenue settlements might be interesting "as well as helpful in terms of highlighting some of the political affiliations of the people listed".
Joe was outraged at the €300,000 increase in Dublin house prices over the past decade. That was €30,000 a year or the "current average industrial wage each year for 10 years".
"This happened on your watch," he accused. In fact it went back to "the devil’s pact made between Fianna Fáil and house-builders and speculators in the 1960s". The builders bought councillors and corrupted planning, he said.
He claimed the builders bought Charles Haughey, whom the Taoiseach "eulogised unstintingly last Friday".
"The VIP pen in Donnycarney church was like a major house-builders’ convention. Oddly enough, the politicians were probably the poorest people there, with the exception of some of your colleagues who are publicans, landlords or dabblers in hairdressing salons in Moscow for the Russian nouveau riche."
But Bertie had had enough. In a staunch defence of the Government’s record, he let fly.
"You would love to bring us back to the pathetic poverty when de Valera and Lemass built social houses, when no other houses were being built." That was the "great tradition you and your merry warriors want to bring back too".
And he taunted: "You have a failed ideology and the most hopeless policy pursued by any nitwit. You’re a failed person who was rejected, and whose political philosophy has been rejected. You will not pull people back into the failed old policies you dreamed up in south Kerry when you were a young fellow. Now, go away."
Unfortunately for Bertie, he won’t.
These two reports were carried in the Irish Times newspaper, on 22 June 2006