DUBLIN, Dec 15 (Reuters) - Ireland's government struggled on Thursday to secure parliamentary support for residential rent controls, risking a period of uncertainty for the market and highlighting the weakness of the minority administration.
The government says a bill imposing temporary controls that would limit annual increases initially in Ireland's two largest cities to 4 percent must be passed within days, before a past intervention limiting rent reviews to every two years lapses.
It does not have enough seats in parliament to pass laws its own, however, and requires the cooperation of the main opposition party, Fianna Fail, which wants to lower the cap to 2 percent and apply it more widely to win support in parliament.
Housing Minister Simon Coveney said the two sides were stuck on whether other areas should be immediately designated as "rent pressure zones" alongside Dublin and Cork. Talks on finding a compromise broke up without agreement late on Wednesday.
The bill was due to be introduced in parliament on Thursday, the last day the lower house is scheduled to sit before the Christmas recess.
"I am available to try and find a way forward this morning but what I will not do is make decisions today for political convenience knowing that it is the wrong thing to do," Coveney, a member of the ruling Fine Gael party, told national broadcaster RTE.
"If we start restricting rents across the country on the basis of what is politically popular, we are going down a very dangerous road and I will not do that. If we get it wrong, we will destabilise a broken market even further."
While Ireland was left with a surplus of houses after a 2008 property crash, supply has since failed to come anywhere close to matching demand in the fast-recovering economy, sending rents back above their peak in the "Celtic Tiger" years.
The government last year intervened in the market to limit reviews to every two years, meaning if the new regime is not put in place some tenants in Dublin and Cork could face sharp hikes from January when the first rent reviews are due to take place. (Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Catherine Evans)