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Enda Kenny accused of allowing homelessness to become a national crisis

Published 19/01/2016

A homeless man begs in a lane near Grafton Street
A homeless man begs in a lane near Grafton Street

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has been accused of allowing homelessness to become a national crisis and only taking action with an election looming.

After the plight of families in emergency accommodation was played out on television, Mr Kenny was forced to defend the Government's handling of the unprecedented numbers of mothers, fathers and children living in hostels, B&Bs and hotels.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said the Taoiseach should be ashamed that more than 1,500 youngsters have nowhere to call home.

"You allowed the crisis to escalate. You allowed it to become the national crisis that it is," he said.

Under the barrage of criticism the Taoiseach set out in numbers the actions taken to try to solve the deepening crisis and said local authorities have been given cash, targets and orders to build social housing.

"This is an issue that is not acceptable," he said.

"The actions being taken here by the Government ... speaks for itself of the extent of the challenge here and how the Government have had to rebuild a construction sector that had collapsed entirely."

Mr Kenny said 5,800 people have been assisted under an agreement to stop landlords pressuring tenants to leave homes and 6,000 working families were helped with welfare to stay in their homes.

He said 300 sites for social housing are being worked on at the moment and last year 2,000 people were housed, mostly in Dublin, in buildings once left empty or boarded up.

Mr Martin said the numbers mean nothing, with 12 councils not building any social houses last year and a promise a few months ago of 500 modular homes but none yet built.

He also said changes to the rent supplement payment was a waste of 55 million euro.

The opposition leader also called for the Government to order the bad-bank Nama to have a 50-50 split in social housing and homes for the market.

The agency has promised 20,000 homes but only 2,000 will go to social housing.

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams told the Taoiseach it is patently untrue that the Government was addressing the crisis.

"You said that you would deal with the issue - isn't that strange a few weeks out from an election," he said.

Mr Adams said in the first nine months of 2015, 28 local authority homes were built while 5,100 people are in homeless accommodation including 1,638 children.

"No doubt some of those children will read the 1916 Proclamation in their classrooms during this centenary year. What will it mean to them? What does it mean to the Government?" he said.

"We know where the Government stands of course. They would rather cherish all the bankers than all of the children of the nation equally. They would rather US style tax cuts than help those in need of a home.

"An Taoiseach must step up and acknowledge that homelessness is a direct consequence of Government policy. The fact is they do not acknowledge homelessness as a priority and they have refused to build social and affordable homes."

Earlier, Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin said the conditions highlighted in RTE's My Homeless Family programme on Monday night were not acceptable and that solving the homelessness crisis would be the social imperative of the next government.

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