Minister fails to detail why 875 people were removed from homeless stats

Eoghan Murphy tells Oireachtas committee some people ‘obsessed’ with the wrong issue

Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy. File Photo. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy. File Photo. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

Detailed information on the classification of 875 people removed from official homeless statistics will not be available until the coming weeks, Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy has said.

Mr Murphy was responding to criticism from members of the Oireachtas Housing Committee following the removal of the 875 people from homeless statistics by various local authorities.

It emerged in recent months that this had occurred even though those people had been put into temporary accommodation and not a secure alternative.

The Minister was strongly criticised at the committee for failing to have information on the people as he had previously signalled.

Instead of it being included in a report by the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive (DRHE), Mr Murphy said local authority data was still being compiled and would be furnished to the committee in due course.

This explanation, however, failed to satisfy opposition TDs who have been mounting pressure on the Minister over his perceived failure to address the country’s housing and homelessness problems.

The removal of 875 from the March homeless figures led to robust exchanges in the Dáil and calls for an explanation last month.

Mr Murphy said the adults and children in question were in “homes”, but opposition TDs said they were in temporary accommodation and not in secure tenancies.

At Wednesday’s committee hearing, People Before Profit TD Mick Barry said: “I think the phrase that your department used is that they had been ‘reclassified’. I think a lot of ordinary people looking at that used different language,” he said.

“They talked in terms of fiddling the figures, cooking the books, doctoring the statistics. They understood that [the possibility of reaching] 10,000 people officially on the homeless list was very politically sensitive and sensed that the figures were being kept below that by any means necessary.”

Mr Barry, along with Sinn Féin TD Éoin Ó Broin, told the Minister that while he has suggested the issue would be addressed in two homeless reports – the other compiled by the Homelessness Inter-Agency Group – this had turned out not to be the case and yet it remained a matter of serious concern.

“They do not . . . leave anyone the wiser as to why 875 people have been taken off the lists,” Mr Barry said.

“The silence is damning, the lack of evidence is damning.”

In response, Mr Murphy said he believed some people had become “obsessed” with the wrong issue.

“It’s not about the numbers and about the lists it’s about solutions,” he told the committee.