Sunday 23 October 2016

Higgins 'disgusted at talk of recovery' amid housing crisis

Emma Jane Hade and Laura Larkin

Published 12/09/2015 | 02:30

President Michael Higgins
President Michael Higgins

President Michael D Higgins has said he "recoils" from headlines that boast about a domestic recovery, when many "inequalities" continue to "pervade sections of our society".

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Speaking at the launch of homeless charity Merchant's Quay Ireland (MQI) annual report in Dublin, he said: "There can be absolutely no doubt that it must be one of the critical responsibilities of a democracy's commitments to participation to address the issue of homelessness.

"And to seek sustainable and innovative solutions as a matter of urgency, solutions which will ensure that no citizen is denied that most fundamental need, a place they can call home," Mr Higgins added.

The President also said he would welcome an apology from local authorities for not placing more value on social housing.

Mr Higgins told the audience that in a "non-political view from the Áras", an apology would be a "great thing to hear".

"I think it would be a great thing to hear from some authoritative body, like the County and City Managers Association, that we are sorry we didn't value social housing more," he said.

The MQI report said that homelessness is now at "unprecendented" levels.

MQI is one of the largest drug service providers in Ireland and its director, Tony Geoghegan, called for more to be done to move people off methadone.

He said the country is currently facing a homeless crisis that is exacerbated by, and contributing to, problem drug use.

The charity's 2014 review showed a stark jump in the number of people accessing its needle exchange.

Some 24,000 needle exchanges were recorded at its Dublin facility, an increase of 6pc when compared to 2013.

In total, over 3,179 individuals accessed the service during 2014, of which 527 were new service users.

"There aren't sufficient paths out of drug treatment," he said.

"There are now 10,000 people on methadone - 50pc of those on it have been on it for 10 years - which is a success to a degree because it's better than illicit, street drug use."

The President said the issue of homelessness has become a "major manifestation of the inequalities that exist in our society today".

"The steady increase of the number of people seeking homeless accommodation stands as a salutary reminder of the distressing consequences that ensue when housing is treated as a speculative commodity and is not viewed as a social right," he added.

He said we need to "reflect on the ethical questions that are presented to us" if we are to "effectively address poverty in our society".

Irish Independent

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