Minister urged to remove Conor Skehan from Housing Agency role

Dublin City Council says Eoghan Murphy should ‘immediately’ appoint successor

Conor Skehan said the Government may have “unwittingly” encouraged people to exploit the housing allocations system by prioritising homelessness. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Conor Skehan said the Government may have “unwittingly” encouraged people to exploit the housing allocations system by prioritising homelessness. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

Dublin City Council has called on Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy to remove Conor Skehan from his position as chairman of the Housing Agency and to “immediately” appoint a successor to the role.

Mr Skehan said he is eager to move on from the role he has held since 2013.

Last Friday, Mr Murphy reappointed Mr Skehan for another year, after being unable to attract any “suitable” candidates to the unpaid role.

Sinn Féin put forward a motion at Monday night’s council meeting calling for Mr Skehan to be removed from the position.

The chairman of the council’s housing committee, Sinn Féin’s Daithí Doolan, said Mr Skehan had “disqualified himself” by his recent comments on homelessness.

In an interview published in The Irish Times last week, Mr Skehan said the Government may have “unwittingly” encouraged people to exploit the housing allocations system by prioritising homelessness in the allocation of social housing. This may have led to families “gaming the system” by declaring themselves homeless to jump up the housing waiting list, he said.

Support

The Sinn Féin motion was passed by 28 votes to 20 with four abstentions, and many councillors speaking in support of Mr Skehan.

Independent councillor Ruairí McGinley said Mr Skehan had been correct in his comments. “I have experience of this. This is not a news flash to me.”

Fine Gael councillor Anne Feeney said the motion was “outrageous” and Labour councillor Dermot Lacey said it was “important public officials are free to speak their mind”.

Mr Skehan has served as the agency’s chair since 2013 and was due to step down on December 12th last.

Mr Murphy has made the reappointment until December 31st next, despite distancing himself this week from Mr Skehan’s comments on homelessness.

Mr Murphy has said he had “no evidence” to support Mr Skehan’s comments.

Mr Skehan said he had wanted to leave the role at the end of his term last year, and was only staying in the position to provide “stability” until a successor has been found. In a statement last Friday, the Department of Housing acknowledged Mr Skehan had been due to step down from the role last month, but said it had yet to identify a suitable replacement.

However, it said he will be released earlier, if a replacement can be found.