Fewer than 20 TDs present for Dáil debate on child homelessness

Sinn Féin TD Imelda Munster makes emotional plea to help homeless families

 Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Eoghan Murphy. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Eoghan Murphy. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

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Fewer than 20 TDs turned up to a debate on child homelessness in the Dáil on Friday morning.

Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy was one of three members of Fine Gael to attend. Fianna Fáil had six TDs present and Sinn Féin had three TDs.

Labour TD Jan O’Sullivan was the only representative of her party. Two People Before Profit TDs – Richard Boyd Barrett and Gino Kenny – were present, along with Solidarity TD Mick Barry, Green Party TD Catherine Martin and Independents4Change TD Joan Collins.

Just 13 TDs were present at the beginning of the debate.

Fianna Fáil TD Barry Cowen said the poor turnout was not reflective of the grave homelessness situation.

Sinn Féin TD Imelda Munster was emotional as she spoke of meeting a homeless teenager last Friday on O’Connell Street. “I was with my daughter. We walked past and stopped. I took money out and told my daughter to go back to give it to the chap and tell him to get soup and a sandwich to warm himself up. When my daughter came back she said ‘Mam, he was crying’,” Ms Munster said.

“He felt that no one gave a damn about him. I want the Minister to think about those children over Christmas, and about every single person who is waiting to be housed by the State.”

Most vulnerable

Mr Murphy insisted every rough sleeper would have a bed this Christmas as they were the most vulnerable people in the housing and homelessness crisis. He added the beds would be available over the course of the year, not just at Christmas.

“It is a serious challenge. We know that new homes are the answer, and that new homes are being built, but we will not be able to solve the crisis until they are built. That will take more time.

“Until those houses are built, we will treat every family and child with the utmost of care until we can get them into new homes – forever homes, as people call them. That is our ambition, and what the Government is working to achieve.”

Fianna Fáil’s Pat Casey TD said his family’s hotel in Glendalough, Co Wicklow, was being used by the Dublin local authorities because there were no homes available. Families begin arriving in the late afternoon after picking up their children from school.

“Eventually, having no choice but to pick my hotel some 50km from their home city, the family – mother and father and two primary school-going children – arrive tired, anxious and a little embarrassed about arriving not as tourists but economic refugees.

Guests

“The team at the hotel makes every effort to welcome these guests while at the same time realising that this is not why they pay their taxes. These families should not be forced to endure this.”

The family and staff made every effort to pretend the situation was normal but the following morning parents were tasked with making the journey back to Dublin. “Our hotel has accommodated families for up to three to five days in a row. Each day the same process is undergone, and there is the same humiliation and struggle.”

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