Halligan embroiled in row with landlords over 'jail them' remark
Minister of State John Halligan last night stood by his controversial comments over Irish landlords.
The Independent Alliance TD was yesterday sensationally accused of "incitement to hatred" by the Irish Property Owners Association (IPOA) after he accused "landlord speculators" of "driving people into homelessness".
Speaking to the Herald last night, however, the Minister of State for Education and Skills insisted he would "withdraw nothing", and repeated his assertion that he would "jail the b******s".
"Are they seriously telling the people of Ireland that some landlords are not exploiting people? They can say all they like, but I stand by comments now more than ever," said the Waterford TD.
"The cost of rented accommodation increased more so [now] than it did during the boom. They're a disgrace - driving people into poverty. How can they justify what they're charging people?" he asked.
Addressing members of the IPOA, chairman Stephen Faughnan blasted the politician's outburst earlier in the week as "despicable, filthy and foul mouthed", arguing the comments "border on incitement to hatred".
He called on the Government to consider the junior minister's position "given his crucial role in education".
Mr Faughnan said: "It is outrageous for a member of the Government to publicly denigrate a body of people who are crucial to solving the housing situation.
"Responsibility for rent increases lie solely with successive government policy which practically insists that landlords should offer a free service to their customers instead of being considered as business partners in the housing solution."
Claiming that the TD's remarks "could be contrary to legislation on incitement to hatred", Mr Faughnan added that they "do not represent the crucial role played by the providers of good quality, affordable accommodation to over 700,000 people."
But Mr Halligan last night defended his explosive comments, which have since been widely shared online, as "factual".
And he claimed that dozens of constituents had called to congratulate him on speaking out about Ireland's rental crisis.
Responding to the IPOA's blistering attack, he said: "Tell them to cop on. It's not incitement to hatred - what it is, is telling it like it is. I've had lots of people ring me, text me, come into my office [in support of the comments].
"I would say there are some decent landlords. But some are a disgrace to Irish society, the prices they're charging.
"People on middle incomes and reasonably good incomes are being curtailed from saving to buy a house and engaging in building the Irish economy in the amount [of rent] they're paying," he said.
"If they [the IPOA] are saying to the people of Ireland that they don't know of any unscrupulous landlords then they need their heads examined."
At €1,454 for a house and €1,306 for an apartment, average rents in Dublin are now higher than at the peak of the property boom.
Calling for "stronger legislation on rent increases", minister Halligan vowed to conduct a "complete analysis" of the "cost and quality" of rental properties here during his term.