Darragh O’Brien accused of misleading Dáil during homelessness debate

Minister for Housing ‘rejects outright’ assertion he would deliberately or otherwise mislead anyone

Sinn Féin has accused Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien of misleading the Dáil over the number of people in emergency accommodation who are eligible for social housing.

Last month, Mr O’Brien told the Dáil during a debate on homelessness that 42 per cent of people in emergency housing in Dublin were not eligible for social housing, one of the main exit routes through which people leave emergency accommodation.

However, a report commissioned by Mr O’Brien’s department and obtained by Sinn Féin’s housing spokesman Eoin Ó Broin suggests that many of those people are yet to have their eligibility assessed, and may ultimately be able to get access to social housing.

Mr Ó Broin said the Fianna Fáil Minister had created the impression that large numbers of those in emergency accommodation were not eligible for social housing and “therefore he has no responsibility for assisting them to exit emergency accommodation”.


The Sinn Féin deputy’s comments drew a sharp response from Mr O’Brien, who said he “rejected outright” the assertion he would deliberately or otherwise mislead anyone. He said he would “not take lessons” from Sinn Féin, accusing them of “playing both sides of the fence” on housing, arguing that the party regularly objects to housing while demanding more homes be built.

The report, compiled last November and based on a survey by the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive (DRHE), found that 43.5 per cent of people on the night in question did not have an active social housing application.

While this means they did not have an option to move out of emergency accommodation and into social housing on the night the survey was undertaken, Mr Ó Broin said their ultimate eligibility would not yet have been determined, with many still in the process of being assessed or preparing an application.

“Minister O’Brien knowingly misled the Dáil when he claimed that over 40 per cent of people in emergency accommodation in Dublin do not have an entitlement to social housing. The report from the DRHE does not say this and the Minister knows that,” Mr Ó Broin said.

“What it clearly shows is they don’t have an active social housing file, however many are waiting to be approved or have not yet applied, and many of them will ultimately be deemed eligible for social housing.”

The DRHE report shows that 30 households or 0.5 per cent of those in emergency housing in Dublin have withdrawn from the process or have been rejected in their application for social housing – a number which Sinn Féin says is more reflective of the level of ineligibility within homeless services at the time the survey was done.

Dublin West TD Mr Ó Broin contended that the majority of those in emergency accommodation without an active social housing application – which means that they have been assessed and approved as eligible – would have applications pending, or be working to gather information as part of the application process.

“Unfortunately, due to the chronic understaffing of our local authorities, it can take six months or more to process these applications,” he said.

In a statement, Mr O’Brien said the report showed that 43.5 per cent of people surveyed had no entitlement to social housing supports at the time it was taken.

“It’s important to note that it was the Department which sought this information from the Dublin local authorities in the first instance as local authorities have expressed concerns in relation to exit pathways for those without a legal entitlement to reside in the State, or those who do not qualify for social housing. Improving our data gathering will result in better insights and informed solutions.”

Mr Ó Broin also warned that the Minister should be careful in how he presents housing information in a climate where far-right misinformation has resulted in arson attacks against buildings intended for use as emergency homeless accommodation.

  • See our new project Common Ground, Evolving Islands: Ireland & Britain
  • Sign up for push alerts and have the best news, analysis and comment delivered directly to your phone
  • Find The Irish Times on WhatsApp and stay up to date
  • Our In The News podcast is now published daily – Find the latest episode here
Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times