Tuesday 27 September 2016

Homelessness - not Irish Water - will stop Government getting back into power, says leading campaigner

Cormac Fitzgerald

Published 19/08/2015 | 12:40

Fr Peter McVerry.
Fr Peter McVerry.

The Government is too concerned with getting re-elected to properly address the homelessness crisis, according to a leading activist.

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Fr Peter McVerry, founder and Director of the Peter McVerry Trust, said that it will be homelessness, and not Irish Water, that will prevent the Fine Gael-Labour coalition from being reelected. 

Speaking to Independent.ie, Fr McVerry called for the immediate introduction of rent controls to tackling spiralling rents in Dublin, as well as a number of other short-term solutions to tackle the growing crisis.

These include raising rent supplement limits, building prefabs for people to stay in temporarily, and allowing bedsits to be used. Fr McVerry also rubbished the argument that the Government didn’t have enough money to provide to local authorities to address the issue.

“Next month the Government are giving €120m away to people who have registered with Irish Water,” he said.

“That money was not in the budget for this year. They found the money because Irish Water posed a serious threat to their chances of reelection next year.  

“The vast majority of those could be housed by Christmas if the Government gave the same priority to homeless families as it’s giving to its reelection prospects,” he said.

Fr McVerry was speaking after the homelessness crisis in Dublin came to a head last week as a family with three young children were found about to bed down in an inner city park.

Read more: Homelessness crisis: Family with three young kids 'set to spend the night in city park'  

“In all the years I have been working with the homeless, it is much worse now than it has ever been,” said Fr McVerry, who has been working to help the homeless for over 30 years.

Fr McVerry said that Fine Gael has always supported landlords over tenants, and the fact that many TDs are landlords doesn't help matters.

"Some of the TDs are themselves landlords - that's worth noting," he said.

Latest figures show that there were 657 families in staying with children in emergency accommodation in June, with 1,383 children. This marked over a 50pc increase since January.

Read more: 'Everything that can be done is being done' - Environment Minister responds as homelessness figures reach record high  

Fr McVerry blamed spiralling rents as well as an increase in the amount of home repossessions for the drastic increase.

He also said that a lack of communication between national and local government and not-for-profit organisations contributed to the problem.

“Everybody has there own agenda. Everybody’s doing there own thing,” he said.

“There’s no joined up thinking or action between all the different bodies.”

The Environment Minister, Alan Kelly, has said that a package on rent certainty will be introduced shortly.

"I take responsibility for my ministry and assure you that everything that can be done is being done," he said.

Previously, the Minister pledged to have ended involuntary long-term homelessness by 2016, something which Fr McVerry called 'Alice in Wonderland fantasy'.

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