- 09 Jun 22
Read the full interview in the new issue of Hot Press – out now
In the new issue of Hot Press – out today – Sinn Féin's spokesperson on housing, Eoin Ó Broin, speaks out about getting houses built fast, making religious orders pay what they owe to the State, the National Maternity Hospital, the rise of the Alliance Party, and his younger years on the Dublin music scene.
In the Hot Press Interview, Ó Broin points out that, from now on, every government is going to be judged on housing.
“Even if the government meets its targets it’s nowhere near enough,” he says. “We haven’t a single affordable home to purchase delivered for a decade. We had 65 affordable homes for rent delivered last year. Any party that presides over a worsening housing crisis will lose seats in the election afterwards.”
On the topic of the National Maternity Hospital, he claims that Sinn Féin would "absolutely" and "without question" use Compulsory Purchase Orders in similar situations.
“One thing we’ve said in our housing policy is that we would like to see an average of 20,000 new homes built every year for at least five years," he adds. "At least 20% of those would have to be from existing buildings. It’s quicker, cheaper and more climate-efficient. Some would require CPOs, some merely the threat of a CPO, and some just negotiation.”
He also calls for an end to tax exemptions given to commercial entities in relation to property transactions. That would include taxing religious institutions, or related 'charitable' companies, on their land deals.
“This isn’t something specific to religious organisations,” he states. “The use of various forms of trusts or vehicles for the legal avoidance of Capital Gains Tax is a problem and needs to be addressed. Probably the most egregious example of this is our Real Estate Investment Trusts and other institutional investors. The legislation that was introduced in 2013 for those explicitly exempts them both from tax of rental properties and from Capital Gains Tax.
“We’re very clear,” he adds. “There’s no set of circumstances where a corporate entity that is engaged in real estate transactions and land development or residential development on a commercial basis should be exempt from CGT. There’s exemptions for young people selling a family home to buy another, that’s all fine. Commercial entities, whether they’re Real Estate Investment Trusts funded by the national pension fund or the property holdings of religious institutions – which are essentially commercial properties – should be subjected to the full rates of CGT. But what I would say first is that those religious orders who still owe government either cash or land for the redress schemes need to pay up.”
Ó Broin goes on to welcome the growth of the Alliance Party, described it as "a really exciting thing."
"I know there’s been a big debate about it, but Belfast City Council just appointed a new Alliance Party mayor and he opened his speech in Irish!" he continues. "He’s not a Gaelgoir. He doesn’t come from a nationalist background. He’s from East Belfast. I was a Belfast City Councillor for the first election when the unionists lost their majority. We had a phrase which we used from then on, ‘Belfast is a city of minorities’. And that’s a good thing, because minorities have to work together. I think the growth of that other space, as we call it, means there’s a growing number of people who are open to all sorts of conversations about a whole lot of things.”
Elsewhere in the interview, Ó Broin reflects on his younger years – including his involvement in the Dublin music scene, at the same time that The Frames were emerging.
“I was quite active in the Dublin music scene in the late ’80s and was a close friend of Mic Christopher too," he tells us. "The band I was in, The Four Men, played on a Rory Gallagher bill at the Mean Fiddler in London as part of Vince Power’s big Irish festivals around ’88 or ’89. We also supported Something Happens at the SFX.”
For the full Hot Press Interview with Eoin Ó Broin, pick up a copy of our new issue – out now: