Sunday 18 November 2018

Brendan O'Connor: Leftist ideology does not always help the homeless

The reaction to the appalling story of Margaret Cash and her children points to the need for more joined-up thinking, writes Brendan O'Connor

DISGRACE: Margaret Cash and her six children were forced to sleep on plastic chairs in Tallaght Garda Station.
DISGRACE: Margaret Cash and her six children were forced to sleep on plastic chairs in Tallaght Garda Station.
Brendan O'Connor

Brendan O'Connor

In the age of instant outrage, we react with our gut and forget about joined-up thinking. We view things fairly simplistically and look for simple solutions. So, for example, we get a Taoiseach who promises that no woman involved in the CervicalCheck scandal will have to go to court.

In one way, the story of Margaret Cash and her seven children is fairly simple. We are all appalled that six of Cash's children had to sleep on hard plastic chairs in a Garda station last Wednesday night. Garda stations are not pleasant places to be at the best of times. At night they take on a bleaker and sometimes more menacing air. The idea that these children were sent there because it was ''a safe place'' is terribly sad.

Worse still is the life these kids have apparently been living for the last year. Margaret Cash says she has been homeless since September after the private landlord she was renting from went bust and the house was repossessed. Since then she seems to have been living in emergency accommodation. She has talked about being kicked out of hostels at nine in the morning and having to traipse the streets with her seven children. She says she is then given the numbers of various hotels to ring for the next night, and it can be difficult to get anywhere with them. Seven children is problematic from a purely practical point of view also. Child protection laws mean that children cannot be in a room on their own, so Margaret and the children need, presumably, adjoining rooms that can accommodate all eight of them. Staying with friends is not an option either, she says, as most of her friends are struggling in small houses with maybe five or six children of their own.

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