In January 2018 the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, announced with great fanfare a Rebuilding Ireland home loan scheme which would be available to all local authorities as a solution for many people who were not in a position to secure finance to purchase a home. As we learned quickly and anyone with a busy constituency office would know, the scheme was extremely difficult to process, with many hurdles put in front of people and many delays. Far from four to six weeks, the process went on for months in many cases. At the time the Minister announced that a second fund would be created very quickly that would be demand-driven, given the overall state of the mortgage market, at a figure of €99 billion. He said it would be a demand-led scheme that would progress.
We learned this morning from Louise Byrne on the RTÉ "Morning Ireland" programme that in a briefing note to the Minister's press office the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government stated it had been advised no further approvals should issue for now, that the Department was undertaking a review of the scheme and that the Departments of Public Expenditure and Reform and Finance were engaging on it. That was on 31 January this year and notwithstanding that Deputy Darragh O'Brien had tabled parliamentary questions about the issue and that Deputy O'Dea had been told in December by the Minister that he was progressing reforms to ensure the loan scheme could work for more people and more quickly. One month later he is advising his press office that no further approvals should issue.
I do not know what planet the Minister is living on, but the question I ask the Taoiseach is why was the scheme not extended. Why was there no public announcement to that effect?
If the Taoiseach tells his press office, surely the public deserves to know. Why was the Dáil not told in an upfront and honest way? Why is there this continuing lack of respect for the House in terms of being open, upfront and honest about what is going on with schemes of this kind? People are still applying, but no one save for the press office has been told that no further approvals will issue, according to RTÉ this morning following a freedom of information request. Why can the Government not just be honest with the people about these issues? Will the Taoiseach bring clarity to this situation? When will the scheme be extended and to what degree? The original limit was €200 million and the Minister alleged that 1,000 houses were to be accommodated. Approximately 1,550 applications, if not more, have been accepted. Will those people who have been approved be in a position to draw down their loans?