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Surge in deaths proves homelessness is also a public health crisis – we must act accordingly

Letters to the Editor


Urgency: Housing, Planning and Local Government Minister Darragh O'Brien. Photo: Frank McGrath

Urgency: Housing, Planning and Local Government Minister Darragh O'Brien. Photo: Frank McGrath

Urgency: Housing, Planning and Local Government Minister Darragh O'Brien. Photo: Frank McGrath

July brought a surge in the number of deaths of people who were homeless or in emergency accommodation in Dublin.

Ten deaths in a single month represents almost a third of 2019's total of 34 deaths. This increase is a cause of great concern.

Homeless campaigner Peter McVerry SJ, who is a social justice advocate for the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice, fears that "we may be witnessing a tipping point for people who are homeless as the types of deaths we are seeing, from suicide and overdoses, are typically deaths of despair. Despair can quickly set in when hope fades and people see no hope to an end to their time in emergency accommodation or sleeping rough."

He says: "When this loss of life is coupled with the overall number who are homeless and the prevalence of indicators of ill-health among the homeless, it is clear that we are dealing with a public health crisis.

"This crisis will only escalate now that tenancy protections have been removed. The pandemic proved we have the capacity to respond with urgency, seriousness, and generosity when needed. The housing and homelessness crisis is not separate from the effort to defeat Covid-19. The human cost of homelessness in Ireland is now also a public health threat. To allow the scale and severity of homelessness in Ireland to continue for five years more was always unconscionable, but to allow it to grow over the next five months is untenable. We must act now and commit to the changes to make our society more just, and more healthy."

The Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice recommends that to reduce further deaths, the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Darragh O'Brien, designates homelessness as a public health crisis and responds accordingly. Better conditions and secure shelter would reduce deaths and help to alleviate the mental health difficulties of people experiencing homelessness.

Keith Adams

Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice, Gardiner Street, Dublin


Series of statues would be fitting commemoration

Further to the worthy suggestions for the erection of a statue to commemorate the late John Hume, it seems to me that the most fitting tribute to him and his valued concern to respect the totality of relationships that achieved the political settlement that we now enjoy on this island, is for a copy of a statue of the late John Hume, paid for by public subscription, to be erected not only in Dublin but also in Belfast, London, Strasbourg and Washington DC.


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Law Library, Four Courts, Dublin 7


Moral compass guided Hume throughout his life

John Hume's simple and dignified funeral mass in St Eugene's Cathedral in Derry was a fitting tribute to a man whose life's work brought us the peace we all enjoy today.

It was also a reminder of the huge sacrifices made by his family, and in particular by Pat, his wife of 60 years, in supporting John throughout the long years of the Troubles.

We were also reminded of John's own deep personal faith which sustained him at all times. The celebrant Fr Paul Farren told us of his daily attendance at 10am mass in the cathedral and his return to it later in the day for personal prayers.

We heard moving stories of John's ability to relate to all people and vignettes about some little human quirks of the man himself.

Overall we caught a glimpse of the strong moral compass which guided and sustained this great man throughout his life.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh sé.

John Glennon

Hollywood, Wicklow


Refusal to change plays a part in publicans' strife

It is good to hear that the advice from Nphet was listened to by the Cabinet over and above the clamour from publicans.

The statement from the LVA and VFI claiming the sector was facing a "full-blown crisis" with "intolerable pressure" on publicans, staff, suppliers and all their families ('No guarantee that pubs will reopen this year: Taoiseach', Irish Independent, August 5) is using this closedown as the cause of the crisis in the pub sector.

The truth is that this crisis in most of the 3,500 pubs has existed for over 10 years with a majority of publicans unwilling to change with changing circumstances.

There are too many pubs in rural towns and villages, with most publicans unwilling to innovate and adapt to the changing nature of the social life of their catchment areas. The thoughts of sectoral support for failing pubs is an affront to the many people who are suffering through this pandemic without meaningful support from the Government.

Publicans and suppliers need to have a moratorium on debt and work out a way forward post-lockdown.

Publicans who have other income sources are not entitled to be supported.

There is a need to implement a Universal Basic Income so that all are supported, otherwise the demands from the different business sectors will deny equality and continue pleasing the few and neglecting the many.

Hugh McDermott

Dromahair, Co Leitrim


Why save industry that does so much damage?

In these unprecedented, difficult times, our Government is correct in deciding that public health is the most important priority.

While many jobs are being lost and many businesses are suffering financial losses, we must not forget the suffering of those who have died due to Covid-19 and the suffering of their families, and we must remember that more people will die before this pandemic is over.

Industry lobby groups are urging the Government to reopen the economy and ease restrictions. There is a need for balance and accuracy in this debate.

On RTÉ Radio's Today with Sarah McInerney on August 5, Michael Healy-Rea TD said: "I am of the opinion on the opening of pubs, that we are actually protecting people's health".

The suggestion beggars belief. Perhaps now is a good time to re-evaluate the extent to which our pub and alcohol culture has had a damaging effect on Irish community life. The World Health Organisation has reported that Ireland has the second highest rate of binge drinking in the world. A 2013 Health Research Board report found that alcohol is responsible for over 1,000 deaths per year in Ireland.

Vintners groups are asking for financial support to offset the costs they have incurred due to Covid-19. Yet alcohol-related hospitalisation costs Irish taxpayers €1.5bn each year, and we must add to this the huge costs of alcohol abuse on families and communities.

My brother died from alcoholism at age 52. Far too many Irish families have suffered similar bereavement due to alcohol. Should Irish taxpayers be asked to bail out an industry that has done so much damage?

Edward Horgan

Newtown, Castletroy, Co Limerick


Martin has no plan - and less time to carry it out

If I may please add to Jason O'Mahoney's article ('Martin has no real plan beyond him becoming Taoiseach', Irish Independent, August 7) which I agree with - our Taoiseach has another problem. He only has two years to prove people like me and Jason wrong.

For all of our sakes, let's hope we are.

Tom Mitchell

Loughrra, Co Galway


'Unconscious bias' a very attractive explanation

I write with reference to a recent letter taking the 'Indo' to task over its terminology ('Terminology perpetuates gender discrimination', July 30).

In the light of the advances made by women in particular during the past 50 years - advances of which the author of the above-mentioned letter is surely aware - the suggestion that the use of terminology like 'farmer and his wife' and 'male model' perpetuates gender discrimination is manifestly absurd.

In addition, there's the concept of 'unconscious bias', beloved of those who simply assume the existence of bias - whether of the gender kind or otherwise - irrespective of whether or not this assumption is supported by hard evidence. Being by its very nature impossible to disprove even if it doesn't exist, 'unconscious bias', as an idea, is obviously highly attractive for those who seek easy explanations for what they perceive as discrimination.

Hugh Gibney

Athboy, Co Meath

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