Monday 23 September 2019

Leo Varadkar: Homelessness figures are very depressing

Figures released by the government put the number of homeless people in Ireland at 10,300.

A homeless man attends a previous demonstration in Dublin (Brian Lawless/PA)
A homeless man attends a previous demonstration in Dublin (Brian Lawless/PA)

By Aoife Moore and Michelle Devane, Press Association

Leo Varadkar has labelled the latest homelessness figures as “very depressing”.

The figures released by the government put the number of homeless people in Ireland at 10,300, the worst in the history of the state.

Homeless charities believe that the actual number is much higher, as they say the government’s method of counting homeless people is not accurate, as it does not include women and children in domestic violence shelters or those living in Direct Provision, amongst other factors.

Speaking in Cork, Mr Varadkar rejected claims that Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy is no longer the right person for the job.

The difficulty we have is that people are still becoming homeless at a very fast rate. Leo Varadkar

“I have full confidence in Eoghan Murphy as Housing Minister, it’s a very difficult job,” he said.

“Eoghan Murphy did certainly not cause the housing crisis, that was caused by other people before this government took up office.

“We shouldn’t forget the record of some of the opposition parties when it comes to housing, this time eight or nine years ago, the banks were bust, the construction industry collapsed, that’s the Fianna Fail record.

“Recovering from that was always going to be difficult and it was always going to take time, and notwithstanding the disappointing and very depressing homelessness figures which showed a further increase, we are making progress.

“While homelessness figures are not going down, the people who are being lifted out of homelessness is at a record high.

“The difficulty we have is that people are still becoming homeless at a very fast rate.”

Mr Murphy has been Minister for Housing since June 2017 and he has survived one motion of no confidence, which was tabled by Sinn Fein’s Eoin O’Broin who has been a fierce critic of Mr Murphy’s tenure in the job.

One in three homeless people in Ireland is a child, and charities say the lack of affordable rental and social housing is forcing young families into homelessness.

A number of major rallies for housing, which attracted thousands of people to the streets, have taken place across Ireland.

Campaigners have called for improved rights for renters, a ban on letting site AirBnB in rental pressure zones, and a blanket ban on evictions until the crisis is amended.

The next major rally for housing is planned for May 18.

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