Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy has claimed he can do nothing to stop vulture funds from swooping on renters and evicting them from their homes amid warnings the existing laws are "riddled with loopholes".
Mr Murphy repeatedly said it would be "inappropriate" for him to directly intervene in the cases after being heavily criticised by Solidarity-People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett.
Solidarity-People Before Profit staged a "tent protest" outside a vulture fund's office yards away from Leinster House. During a morning Dáil debate Mr Boyd Barrett said the Government must act to address the growing problem.
Pointing to three groups of people in the Dáil public gallery who have been evicted or face eviction from their homes after vulture funds told them to leave, he said the crisis must be addressed immediately.
What are you going to do to stop these vulture funds? All of these cases show the law is riddled with loopholes. They have a lack of compassion and humanity.
"They don't want to be landlords, they don't care about making people homeless. We need a ban on the evictions on sale, a tightening up of refurbishment, and an anti-evictions bill," Mr Boyd Barrett said.
Mr Murphy said he understood the concerns facing individuals involved and that "I feel very sorry for those people" who are in the grip of the situation.
However, despite repeated calls for action, the Housing Minister said he was "precluded from intervening" in individual cases and that the existing laws were backed by the Dáil, not just himself.
The debate also saw Mr Murphy face criticism over the Government's "affordable" housing plans.
Independents4Change TD Joan Collins said it is "impossible" for people to buy homes in Dublin, saying:
Prices for a two-bedroom house in O'Devaney Gardens would be between €270,000 to €315,000 while prices for a three-bedroom house would be between €300,000 and €350,000
"Does the Minister not realise that the mean average wage is €37,000 and that 64% of workers earn less than that? The median average income is €27,000. These workers will never have a chance. It is outrageous," she said.
Mr Murphy said not all "affordable" homes are this price, and that "most of the affordable homes will be priced at less than €310,000".