Saturday 15 December 2018

Kevin Doyle: Statistics and figures won't put roof over children's heads

Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Eoghan Murphy TD during an inspection by the Minister of 29 new rapid-build social housing units at Knocknarea Court, Drimnagh. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Eoghan Murphy TD during an inspection by the Minister of 29 new rapid-build social housing units at Knocknarea Court, Drimnagh. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

There's a spin the 'wheel of crisis' game going on in Government.

The run in to Christmas was always earmarked for housing. The new year will bring a trolley problem to the door of Health Minister Simon Harris.

And when that passes we'll go back to questioning Charlie Flanagan as to what on Earth is going on at the heart of Justice.

But for the next few days, it will be Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy who faces the cameras in a bid to reassure the nation that the homelessness problem is being solved.

Christmas is a time of year when we all feel that little bit more charitable and the idea of 3,333 children without a definitive location for Santa to drop their presents tugs at the heartstrings.

And that's a major problem for the Government. It's almost 18 months since Simon Coveney launched 'Rebuilding Ireland' in a blaze of fancy literature.

He described it as "a really ambitious and far-reaching initiative" that was his own and the Government's number-one priority. Mr Coveney ultimately switched his focus to Brexit, leaving Mr Murphy to take the flak.

There are many laudable ideas in the plan. One positive result was on display yesterday as the minister officially opened 29 so-called 'rapid build' units in Drimnagh, Dublin. The nicely designed homes will be home to more than 50 children this Christmas. But they are just a drop in an ever-growing ocean.

At the launch, Mr Murphy promised things would improve but they would take more time. He quoted figures. Lots of figures. Some 1,000 social homes have been completed, while 3,600 homes are on site with another 2,000 homes ready to be built.

But asked whether he could guarantee the 3,000-plus children in emergency accommodation this Christmas that they will have a home by next year, he replied: "What I can tell those children is that we are building new homes for those children and their families."

He said there has never been any secret that we need the private sector delivering at least 25,000 new homes every year.

"When we get to that point...then we'll have overcome the problems," Mr Murphy said, adding that €6bn is available, so money is not a problem.

It could easily have been Mr Harris quoting investment in new measures to stall the numbers on hospital trolleys.

Statistics don't work for ordinary people.

It's true that every house moves us one step closer to ending the crisis - but for anybody who watched RTÉ's 'The Big Picture' on Tuesday night, the reality is on the ground.

Irish Independent

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