Taoiseach urged to declare homelessness national emergency

Plans in place to move homeless families to commuter towns during papal visit

Margaret Cash and six of her children - aged between one and 11 - stayed at Tallaght Garda station after emergency homeless services were unable to find beds for them.

 

The Government has defended its response to the housing crisis as it emerged families seeking emergency accommodation will be placed in commuter towns for the duration of the papal visit.

Political parties and homeless charities called for Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to call the housing crisis a national emergency after a homeless mother, Margaret Cash, and six of her children were forced to sleep overnight in a Garda station on Wednesday night.

However, Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy insisted the Government was doing all it could to address the deficiencies and pledged to establish 400 additional family units to assist homeless families living in emergency accommodation.

Responding to the case of Ms Cash, Mr Murphy said there is clearly urgent need for a review of how State agencies deal with families who present late at night in need of emergency accommodation.

Availability

While he stressed there was some availability on Wednesday night, the case had highlighted a need “for better communication between the Dublin Regional Homelessness Executive, our partner organisations and State agencies to ensure families can be accommodated”.

In a statement to The Irish Times, he insisted addressing “homelessness is a priority for Fine Gael and we are absolutely committed to increasing the delivery of housing to ensure that we can deliver solutions for those experiencing homelessness”.

“We must not forget that the current crisis is the long sting in the tail of the collapse of our economy and construction sector. We had to rescue the economy first and now that that is in a good position we can continue to invest greater resources in housing.”

Meanwhile, the Minister for Housing has confirmed “contingency plans” are being put in place for Pope Francis’s visit at the end of the month.

Transported

The Irish Times has learned this will involve families moving to commuter towns and being transported to and from the city.

The Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE) said it has been working closely with emergency accommodation providers and has pre-booked rooms and facilities for the weekend of the papal visit.

Fianna Fáil spokesman on housing Darragh O’Brien said the crisis was a stain on Irish society and called for the Government to establish a taskforce to report within a manner of weeks on how to address the issue of child homelessness.

Sinn Féin, meanwhile, has said it will not table a motion of no confidence in Mr Murphy despite threatening to do so in recent weeks.

A party spokesman said Fianna Fáil had made it clear it would not support it and therefore was “doomed to failure”.