Waltzing on borrowed time-The Real Debate for Ireland’s 33rd Dáil

by Padraig Conlon

Following RTE’s decision to only include the leaders of two political parties on its TV Leaders Debate an alternative debate is set to take place in Dublin.

“The Real Debate”, a podcast/streaming event, will be available while the proposed Leaders Debate between Leo Varadkar and Micheál Martin is being broadcast next Tuesday night, (4th), and will feature a variety of opinions and views from across the political spectrum, including journalists and podcasters.

It’s been set up as a collaboration between several organisations, including Right2Homes, HomeOptions, and ourselves Dublin Gazette as a media partner.

“The Real Debate” is offering the “other 52% of voters” a debate and will create opportunities for other voices and opinions to be shared.

Moderator on the evening will be Donagh McKeown, who has many years’ experience as a radio presenter and producer with the BBC and various radio stations in Ireland, including Shannonside / Northern Sound, Downtown Radio, Mid 106, Townland Radio and presently on Belfast 89.

“We are keen to engage with potential participants for the podcast, so do please reach out to the Facebook page “The Real Debate” for a chance to participate,” Donagh told Dublin Gazette ahead of next week’s debate.

“Please follow our pre-event debate on the Facebook page, and/or develop your own local debate and please feel free to share as we build our audience.”

“Waltzing on Borrowed Time”

That’s the clarion call from the founders of Homeoptions, taken from the title of a song by legendary Dublin folk singer/songwriter Pete St John.

Homeoptions spent 5-years trying to introduce legislation into Dáil Éireann, aiming to protect families in their homes, whilst at the same time also attempting to remove Vulture Funds from the Irish economy by offering the banks ethically-funded alternatives.

These efforts were rejected, out of hand, by the bailed-out banks with AIB rejecting a fully-funded €800m bid for its latest Portfolio of Distressed Family Home Loans (NPLs).

Similar bids were also dismissed by PTSB and Ulster Bank.

Speaking to Dublin Gazette ahead of the The Real Debate, Homeoptions founder Brian Reilly said:

“I think voters have an absolute right to know the depths of hypocrisy they are dealing with when heading to the polls on Feb 8th and understand just how powerless most of these same TDs actually are when faced with the need to tackle housing, homelessness, wanton profiteering, vested interests and internal Party Politics.

“Most of the current crop of sitting Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael TDs, with the exception of John McGuinness, Marc MacSharry, Éamon Ó Cuív and Independents like Michael Fitzmaurice and Mattie McGrath, sat on the fence while tens of thousands of families are getting thrown to the wolves.”

Reilly said the “frustrating” journey began for Right2Homes in 2013 following the Government’s introduction of The Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Bill.

This legislation had been designed to help protect families caught up with distressed family home mortgages, but quickly becoming known as the “Eviction Bill.”

Right2Homes had been established to help challenge the legitimacy of that Act given its retrospective impact on distressed family home mortgages.

Meetings were arranged with numerous TDs from all parties, and also some Independents, resulting in the idea of a “People’s Bill” which was then drafted for Right2Homes by the Master of the High Court, Edmund Honohan.

Reilly says that after having encouraged the production of such a “People’s Bill” the Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party, under the direction of Micheál Martin and his non-elected advisers, failed miserably to support the Bill instead leaving it up to Kilkenny TD John McGuinness to introduce the resulting “Affordable Housing and Fair Mortgage Bill 2018” as a Private Members Bill, which he did in 2018.

“The hypocrisy involved here, especially by Micheál Martin, can only be described as breathtaking,” claims Reilly, as he recalls his first face-to-face meeting with the Fianna Fáil leader.

“We had already spent an enormous amount of time producing the actual Bill itself, encouraged initially by an internal FF working group led by Darragh O’Brien, incorporating changes along the way as suggested by various groups, including Fianna Fáil, the Bills Office, the Ceann Comhairle’s Office and the Department of Finance.

“Micheal Martin’s opening remarks at that first formal meeting were “I won’t be bounced into supporting this Bill,” an alarming statement given that we were at that time almost eight years into a mounting Housing and Homelessness crisis, and nothing has changed to this day, the crisis is demonstrably worse and the man is simply not capable of radical change, it’s clearly not in his DNA.

“A number of leading FF Deputies have since confirmed to us that should Micheál Martin and his small cohort of non-elected advisors, somehow manage to win out on Feb 8th, nothing of any significance will have changed when we all wake up to the reality on Feb 9th, and the country will be left facing yet another 5 years of blind adherence to existing Fine Gael policies supporting Banks, Profiteering and Vulture Funds,” Reilly said.

“There is a real danger that people will wake up on February 9th, the morning after the Election, and find themselves slowly coming to grips with the news from exit polls that Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have secured yet another crack at the Same Old, Same Old politics of the last 100 years and that much sought after change will have been pushed back for another 5 years.

“The time for radical change is now so why can’t voters insist their politicians grow up and envisage the collective possibilities for real change.”

Reilly makes the point that with 45 of the 159 Seats up for grabs in the capital voters in the 11 Constituencies of Dublin could possibly decide the make-up of the 33rd Dáil.

“A Coalition of the Willing” is what’s now required with over 77% of the Electorate currently not supporting Fine Gael, according to several published polls, mostly on foot of the worsening disasters in Housing, Health and Overspending on State Projects – it’s definitely time for real change,” Brian Reilly concluded.

For more information please go to The Real Debate Facebook page by clicking here

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