TAOISEACH Micheál Martin defended the government’s policy of tying rent increases to the consumer price index as a “positive measure” despite soaring inflation.
Martin said a recent change in the law that now allows landlords to increase rents in rental pressure zones (RPZ) only based on the cost of inflation – not 4% every two years – reflected the economic advice that the Coalition received.
The Irish Independent reported on Tuesday that the Harmonized Consumer Price Index (HICP) – a standardized measure of inflation used in the EU – peaked in 13 years in August when it rose to 3pc .
Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien had promised that the decision to link the increases to inflation would mean “a significant reduction in the level of rent increases in RPZs”.
Speaking in New York, where he attends the United Nations General Assembly, Martin defended the policy.
“We have to be fair here. The link with the rent index was a positive development in the overall context of the reduction in the level of increase that we had experienced, ”he said.
“Now we are in the midst of an inflationary surge that has an international dimension, in large part due to Covid-19 and the disruption of supply chains, and the rising cost of basic commodities to worldwide.
“Now the international jury knows how long this will last – is it a temporary spike? And the ECB told us, at the level of EU leaders, that it saw a temporary spike in prices that will decrease in the coming times. “
Mr Martin said there was very strong advice to the government that the law’s rent freeze would be “unconstitutional”.
Separately, Mr Martin said he had not received an invitation to a controversial memorial event in Armagh next month which will mark the centenary of the partition and creation of Northern Ireland.
Fianna Fáil chief said he would give “consideration” to the invitation after President Michael D Higgins declined to attend after disputing the wording of the event.
Mr. Martin reiterates that he respects the Speaker’s ruling.
“I understand why he made this decision and I don’t think his good hopes can be called into question,” he said.
The Taoiseach was speaking after several informal meetings and conversations with heads of government at the United Nations General Assembly in New York. Mr Martin said after his conversations that the strong theme emanating from the UNGA was “we are facing the abyss of climate change”.
“We feel that given the recent extreme weather events, there is a growing momentum to do better than we have done on the issue of climate change,” he said.
He had what he described as a “good meeting” with European Commission President von der Leyen.
An Irish government source said Mr Martin had met Ms von der Leyen as well as Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven. They discussed advances in vaccines, COVAX and the need to accelerate global vaccine distribution, as well as transatlantic relations between the EU and the US.
There was consensus at the meeting that US President Joe Biden’s earlier pledge in his UNGA speech to double support to tackle climate change in developing countries, for developing countries, was a big step forward.
Martin told the media that President Biden was a “committed multilateralist” who had identified Europe as a key partner of the United States.
The Taoiseach said Ireland sees him as “a very strategic asset”, especially on issues such as climate change, the fight against Covid-19 and the defense of democracy and freedom of expression in the world.
Mr Martin said he did not request to meet with Mr Biden as it was not appropriate at a United Nations General Assembly, but said he was sure President Biden would tell the Prime British Minister Boris Johnson that it is important to engage with the EU to resolve issues related to the Northern Ireland Protocol when they meet at the White House.
Mr. Martin also met with the Prime Ministers of Barbados, Norway and Bangladesh as well as the Presidents of Vietnam, Colombia, Costa Rica, Latvia and Libya.
Vietnamese President Nguyen Xuan Phuc asked for Ireland’s help in sourcing vaccines from the Taoiseach, saying he would report the request to the EU and told him about the COVAX system the EU has taken. committed to review in order to speed up vaccine distribution.
He also met UN Deputy Secretary General Amina J. Mohammed.