Church should do everything it can to help housing crisis, says bishop

Willie Walsh says land owned by church is land belonging to the people

Land owned by the church was not really owned by bishops or priests, he said. Photograph: iStock

Land owned by the church was not really owned by bishops or priests, he said. Photograph: iStock

 

The retired Bishop of Killaloe Willie Walsh has said that the church should be doing everything it could to help address the housing crisis.

Bishop Walsh was responding to a letter from the Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien to Archbishop Eamon Martin asking that the Catholic Church identify land or vacant buildings it owns that could be used as part of efforts to tackle the housing crisis.

Speaking on Newstalk’s Pat Kenny Show, the retired bishop said that the church should be doing everything it could to help address the issue.

“I would have always had the attitude that church land is not private property. church land is land belonging to the people. The people involved in the church.

“It is not belonging to the bishop or parish priests or that sort of thing. It is the people’s land and I think that anything the church can do to help the housing situation I think it should be there and trying to do it.”

The church had been involved in housing in Ireland for many years, he said. His own parish had dedicated a great deal of land either free of charge or at a nominal sum to housing in recent years.

Land owned by the church was not really owned by bishops or priests, he said. It belonged to the people and should be used for the benefit of the people.

“Obviously different dioceses or different religious congregations have different needs — whether that is the primary needs of education or health or housing — but the general principle is that the church should be in there because there is no doubt that we are in a crisis situation in Ireland for housing.

“It is just not good enough for a country that is relatively wealthy that we have so many people homeless or living in unfit conditions.”

Housing for All plan

The Government has asked the Catholic Church to identify land or vacant buildings it owns that could be used as part of efforts to tackle the housing crisis.

It comes as work continues to finalise the Government’s Housing for All plan.

The Cabinet subcommittee on housing is due to meet on Monday for discussions on the plan ahead of a launch later this week.

The Irish Times understands Mr O’Brien highlighted comments made by the archbishop and other clergy on the need for action to address the housing crisis as he made his request to the church.

The Minister emphasised how identifying landbanks and vacant buildings to use for homes will be a key part of the Government’s forthcoming housing plan.

Sources with knowledge of the letter sent to the archbishop said the intention is to open dialogue with the church on the possibility that its lands or buildings could be used as part of efforts to ramp up housing supply.