Government TD denies smear against Dublin families who he says move to the country commit crimes
A Government TD has caused outrage by claiming that "unwanted Dubliners" cause an increase in crime when resettled to rural areas on Government schemes.
Fine Gael deputy James Bannon's remarks about the Rural Resettlement Scheme, which sees urban families voluntarily resettled to rural areas, have been blasted as "discriminatory, derogatory and insulting".
Mr Bannon, who represents Longford-Westmeath, said that proposals to reintroduce the scheme to relocate homeless Dublin families to the country were "destructive".
"Longford has already experienced social and criminal problems visited upon the county by families exported from their native environment in the city of Dublin to previously quiet towns and villages," he said.
The scheme would "make room for affluent people" in the capital and cause "further deprivation" in rural areas, he argued.
Mr Bannon told RTE's News At One that homeless Dublin families "should be housed in their native county of Dublin".
"We've enough to do to house the people of Longford/ Westmeath."
However, he added: "People from Longford/ Westmeath who move to Dublin are very welcome to move back down to Westmeath. I'd welcome them with open arms."
He said there is "absolutely no smear whatsoever" against Dublin homeless families.
"I believe that every single local authority in this country should look after their own people," he said.
"Local authorities in Dublin who've failed to provide for their own should not export them down to the Midlands."
Local authorities in his constituency had social housing lists of their own, he pointed out, though proposals under consideration at the Department of the Environment are thought to be based on local authority houses, which are difficult to rent out.
Lord Mayor Criona Ni Dhalaigh called on Mr Bannon to retract his comments, which she said were ridiculous.
"Where does he get off? What an absolutely discriminatory, derogatory and insulting statement to make," she told the Herald.
"People who move to the country on these schemes do so because they want a better life, not because they've been run out of Dublin," she added.
"Is he trying to say that all homeless people are troublesome? The majority of people who are homeless are decent, hardworking people who have fallen on hard times, through no fault of their own, who would make lovely neighbours and add to their community."
The latest figures show that there are 1,185 children in 556 families in emergency accommodation in the capital.
Homelessness campaigner Brother Kevin Crowley said that there was no reason to object to such a scheme if homeless people in Dublin were happy with an opportunity to move away from the city.
"If the deputy can't show his charity to people in need, he is being very selfish," he said.
Meanwhile, independent TD Tommy Broughan said that his Dail colleague's comments were "very disappointing" and somewhat "pointless".
"We have always had rural resettlement schemes and they have worked well down through the years," he said. "What he's saying is a slur on Dublin people. It's ridiculous."