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€11m housing fund swings Sinn Féin to back city budget

SINN Féin councillors in Cork city have been accused of selling out voters after party members back Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael to pass a budget at City Hall last night.

A war of words erupted after last night's council meeting, with 25 of the 28 councillors voting to pass the budget. Solidarity and Workers' Party members were alone in opposing the plan.

It was a first for Sinn Féin members on the council, who have traditionally sided against the budget.

However, this time, party members said there were inclusions that they simply couldn't reject.

Plans to apply for an €11 million loan for housing maintenance swung Sinn Féin, with members welcoming the move as a positive.

The loan, if approved, will be spent on housing repairs over two years and will be repaid over 20 years.

The loan is in addition to the allocation of €46.5 million for housing spend in the revenue budget.

Solidarity councillor Fiona Ryan hit out at Sinn Féin, describing herself as 'very disappointed' by the party's actions.

 Lord Mayor Cllr Tony Fitzgerald and Ann Doherty, presented last night's budget

Lord Mayor Cllr Tony Fitzgerald and Ann Doherty, presented last night's budget

Cllr Ryan had urged councillors to reject the proposed budget as a protest against the lack of central government funding given to local authorities and the ongoing housing crisis.

She said, "This represented a lurch to the right for Sinn Féin, who were thanked for their contribution by a member of Fianna Fáil.

"I think that the housing crisis will escalate next year. While additional investment is there, compared to what has been cut over decades, it is not enough for what we will need.

"The reality is that unless a stand is taken and unless principle is not something that cannot be sold out on, it won't change."

Former Lord Mayor Chris O'Leary rejected the suggestion, though.

The Sinn Féin councilor said, "It is fine for people to criticise but how can I turn around to the people who come to me every week and tell them that I didn't get this money for them?

"We couldn't solve everything so you get nothing? I can't tell people that; the people who have been coming to me for years to solve problems."

His colleague Thomas Gould made similar comments.

"This is the first budget where things we have campaigned for have been included," he said.

"There were things here we couldn't reject. People have waited years for these works."

The Lord Mayor, Cllr Tony Fitzgerald welcomed the change in Sinn Féin's policy.

"It is a historic moment," he said.

"I feel that we turned a corner tonight. 25 of 28 councillors backing the budget. We have never had such a majority."