‘It was an analogy’ – Barry Cowen on comparing extending eviction ban to ‘making sweets free for children’

Former Minister Barry Cowen has apologised for any offence caused by his comment comparing extending the eviction ban to giving free sweets to children.

he Fianna Fáil TD immediately came under fire from opposition members for his remarks in the Dáil yesterday.

“Keeping or extending the ban isn’t necessarily going to solve this crisis into the future. It’s like making sweets free for children, it’s fine for a little while but ultimately detrimental to the greater need,” he said.

He also called for opposition politicians to work with local authorities and councillors around the country in relation to the Government’s recent instructions and demands for councils to purchase units impacted by eviction notices.

Speaking this morning on RTÉ’s Today with Claire Byrne, Mr Cowen said it was an “analogy” and he would like people to hear the “context” relating to it.

“I could have said papering over the cracks doesn’t fix the way long term. I have four children myself; I wouldn’t say anything derogatory about children,” he said.

“I’m sorry if people were offended by what I said, it certainly wasn’t my intention. My intention was to focus on issues, solutions, that are available that need to be concentrated on.”

Mr Cowen said many of those in opposition parties “would have you believe” that extending the eviction ban “will wipe away and magic away” existing notices to quit that have already been issued.

The Offaly TD said he did not set out to offend anyone and denied the claim that he is “removed from reality”.

“People find that offensive, I am apologising if that is the case,” he said.

“I represent a constituency; I meet and live with people who are impacted by this.

“I’ve about 20 cases where people are facing the horrible vista of not knowing if there’s a solution to their issue when a notice to quit is acted upon.”

Many TDs also took to social media to express their dismay at Mr Cowen’s comment.

Social Democrats TD Cian O’Callaghan criticised Mr Cowen’s comment and described it as “absolutely shocking” and an “utter disgrace”.

Labour TD Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said the remark was met with “stunned faces” in the Dáil.

Mr Cowen said he would expect other TDs, “like Cian O’Callaghan, like Aodhán Ó Ríordáin – anybody else with a problem with what I said to ensure that the cases that have been brought to their attention get the resolution that the Government has put in place for such cases”.

“I take it seriously, this is a housing emergency and crisis. For people to imply that I somehow don’t appreciate, understand or have empathy for those that are faced that are faced with this situation.

“I’m an elected representative for the last 30 years.”