Thursday 17 October 2019

Thousands to take to the streets to protest homelessness

(L-R) Laura Harmon, Michael Taft, Fr Peter McVerry, John Douglas and Michelle Byrne
(L-R) Laura Harmon, Michael Taft, Fr Peter McVerry, John Douglas and Michelle Byrne
Ian Begley

Ian Begley

Thousands of people are expected to take to the streets next month for a major protest against homelessness.

Raise the Roof, a coalition of trade unions, civil society organisations and political parties, are staging a national rally on the housing crisis in Dublin on Saturday, May 18. 

Last October, campaigners from the origination saw 10,000 people join them in a similar rally outside Leinster House.

Helping to launch the demonstration, Fr Peter McVerry said Ireland’s homeless situation is expected to get worse unless the Government commit to drastic changes in its housing policies.

“The number of homeless people across the country is closer to 15,000 than 10,000 reported recently and as things stand that figure is only going to increase,” he said. 

“The root cause of this problem lies with the failure to build public housing. Instead, we funnel some €2m per day to private landlords in HAP payments... that is simply not sustainable.”

The homelessness activist added that the Government’s plan of tweaking their housing policies had failed. 

“Any 12-year-old child would say the Government policy isn’t working, but the Government can’t see that yet.

“I would guesstimate very conservatively that there are at least half a million people in this country whose housing situation is causing them serious distress,” he said.

Also speaking at the launch, Mandate General Secretary John Douglas said: “We will be calling on all trade union members to support this rally on May 18 to help us push for a radical and dramatic change in housing policy. 

“Last October, with the support of Raise the Roof, the Dail passed a motion calling for a major investment in public housing provision, action on rent certainty and security of tenure plus the creation of a legal right to housing. 

“The motion was supported by a majority of TDs and political parties along with the wide range of trade union and civil society groups involved in Raise the Roof. It needs to be implemented without delay, to help bring this emergency to an end,” he said.

Michelle Byrne, Vice President of the Union Students of Ireland told attendees that thousands of students in Ireland are in dire need of accommodation. 

“This month we saw the Government bring amendments to legislation that would include purpose-built student accommodation under the rent pressure zone legislation and give students more rights,” she said. 

“This comes after we have already heard of rent hikes of 10pc in college owned accommodation in UCC and in private accommodation in Galway. 

“We need to keep the pressure on to ensure this legislation gets through. It’s been a year since this was promised and we cannot wait any longer.”

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