Bishops urge Government to increase efforts to solve homelessness

Death of rough sleepers is a ‘collective failure of our society’

A homeless man sleeping on Kildare Street, Dublin. File photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

A homeless man sleeping on Kildare Street, Dublin. File photograph: Dara Mac Donaill


Irish Bishops have called on the government to step up its efforts to end the “indignity” of homelessness.

“Something is structurally wrong with a society which allows such a negation of human dignity,” the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference said in a statement after their Winter 2017 general meeting.

They noted the death of eight rough sleepers in the last twelve weeks, calling it a “collective failure of our society to protect the most vulnerable amongst us.”

They asked “all people in society, and in particular our policymakers, to recommit themselves to building a society that values human beings, not least, by working for a society that enables all people to live in a decent home.”

Some 8,300 people are using emergency homeless accommodation, including over 3,000 children and more than 1,400 families while the average rent has increased by 61 per cent since 2011.

“Tens of thousands of people are living with mortgages in arrears and consequently are at risk of losing their home. Energy poverty affects more than 600,000 people across Ireland. These statistics represent individual stories of hardship endured by our sisters and brothers,” the statement said.

The conference also criticised recent increases in the price of energy and public transport which it said would disproportionally affect “the poor, the marginalised and the elderly in our society.”

It said the increase in prices is “particularly harsh” in the run up to Christmas.

On the subject of the impasse on Brexit and Northern Ireland, the Bishops said the current level of uncertainly means it is the weakest who will suffer most.

“Bishops urge all involved in the current Brexit Phase One negotiations to work towards solutions that will consolidate and further the achievement of the Good Friday Agreement and the peace and institutions that have enabled political and economic development in recent years.”

The conference also restated the Bishops’ call for the retention of the Eight Amendment to the Constitution. It said its removal would “expose unborn children to greater risk.”