UNDER pressure Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy today reveals he personally knows the struggles the homeless are going through as he’s made a point of going into hostels and has even ended up serving the residents breakfast.
he 37-year-old claims the homeless crisis is easing and he is striving to make things better.
“I’ve gone to the hostels late at night that people have said they are scared of going into, to see what conditions are like,” he tells the Sunday World.
“I was serving breakfast in one of the larger hostels a while back and it was difficult to actually serve breakfast because people wanted to talk to me about what they were experiencing, which was really nice.
“They were talking about the challenges that they were [facing] in terms of trying to find work and some of them had other more complex issues. They were telling me their stories and they were asking me to help.”
He admits that he finds it distressing to see people sleeping rough but claims the number is a new low of 90 each night.
“It’s still way too high,” he reflects .“For many people who are sleeping rough, and the tents that they see, that’s the human face of the crisis and that’s why people are so upset about this.
“It doesn’t have to touch a person personally but because we are a very compassionate country, people do want to make sure we are doing everything we can to help the most vulnerable.”
He insists he is not out of touch .“The first thing that Sinn Fein and Fianna Fail said about me when I became minister was this kind of posh boy jibe,” says Murphy.
“But it doesn’t matter if I’m from Dublin 4 or Farranfore, it doesn’t matter if I’ve a south Dublin accent or a Kerry accent, what matters is the policies I’m implementing.
“I do understand the crisis that people are in, not just people who are sleeping rough, or families or kids in hotels, but also young families trying to get out of a small apartment to a house to raise their family,” he says.
Asked if he has become a bit of a ‘fall guy’, he replies: “I think there is a lot of people caught up in this crisis. I’m the minister for housing, I’m the person responsible, I’ve got to solve it and that’s what I’ve got to do.
“People recognise me and people do want to talk to me. The good thing that we have is we have a close relationship between politicians and the people who elect them and you wouldn’t want to see that change. So people do come up and talk to you about housing and other things.”
The Minister, who is running for re-election in Dublin Bay South, explains he has only been in the job two and a half years and turned down a different Cabinet position to try and solve the housing crisis.
“A lot of people I know have been burned twice by housing,” he discloses. “Some people who were lucky enough in the late 2000s to buy a home.
“Like some of my friends live in ghost estates, or negative equity and have unfortunately lost their jobs and have not been able to afford the mortgage, so they have that experience. A lot of them are trying to move out of small apartments into houses.”
He maintains that 20,000 new homes were built last year compared to 10,000 in 2016 and that new builds will increase this year.
Latest opinion polls show Sinn Fein almost neck and neck with Fianna Fail and Fine Gael.“If you look what’s happening with Sinn Fein in the polls, the prospect of a Sinn Fein-Fianna Fail coalition is now very real as I look at it,” he muses.
“I don’t believe Micheal Martin when he says he won’t go into power with Sinn Fein and I think it would be a terrible mistake for the economy.”