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'It could be a turning moment in the crisis': Major housing rally to take place outside Dáil in October

A range of trade unions, housing advocates and groups have today called for a “radical shift” in Ireland’s housing policies.

The panel of speakers at the launch of the Raise the Roof rally
The panel of speakers at the launch of the Raise the Roof rally
Image: Hayley Halpin via TheJournal.ie

“WE HAVE A crisis today that I believe could get much, much worse and the government [has its] head in the sand.” 

A range of trade unions, housing advocates and campaign groups have today called for a “radical shift” in Ireland’s housing policies, as they announced a housing rally outside Leinster House this October.

The rally has been called in support of an opposition party motion on housing that is scheduled to be debated in the Dáil that day. Sinn Féin has said the motion will be tabled on Tuesday 18 September when the Dáil resumes. 

The motion has been signed by Sinn Féin, Labour, People Before Profit, Solidarity, the Social Democrats, the Green Party, Independents for Change, and Independent members of the Oireachtas. 

Speaking from the audience at the event today, Sinn Féin spokesperson for housing Eoin Ó Broin said that “there’s a growing frustration that despite all of the efforts that we’re making, we’re still not having the impact in terms of securing a change”. 

The idea that you’re having such a broad-based coming together of people to say enough is enough, we have to raise the profile and raise the roof is really important. 

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, Ó Broin added: “The government and Fianna Fáil can’t continue to keep doing the same thing. If we don’t see a substantial change in budget 2019 the problem is going to get worse. 

“So, this is huge, but it now needs broader society and other organisations to support it and if they do I think this could be a turning moment in the housing crisis.” 

The number of homeless people and families in the State increased last month to a new record figure. The Department of Housing recorded that there were 6,024 adults and 3,867 children in emergency accommodation during the week of 23-29 July.

‘It could get much worse’

Issues raised by speakers today included the rights surrounding student accommodation, women in homelessness and evictions leading to homelessness. 

Fr Peter McVerry raised the point that the number of homeless people in Ireland is probably much higher than the monthly number recorded by the Department of Housing – which records only those in Section 10 funded emergency accommodation. More on that can be read here

He noted that a large number of people who are without homes don’t get counted in these figures. 

“The homeless figures don’t count, ironically, people sleeping rough, [they] doesn’t count people sleeping in cars or tents, it doesn’t involve people who are sofa surfing,” he said.

We have a crisis today that I believe could get much, much worse and the government [has its] head in the sand.

Among the other speakers today were Irish Congress of Trade Unions President Sheila Nunan, Orla O’Connor of the National Women’s Council, Michelle Byrne of Union of Students in Ireland and Aisling Bruen of the National Homeless & Housing Coalition.

In all, the speakers today laid out calls for a sweeping change in housing policy, including support for a major programme of public housing construction, and an end to evictions into homelessness.

Motion of no confidence 

Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald announced earlier this week that the party will table a separate motion of no confidence in Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy in the coming weeks.

“Does the government and Fianna Fáil stand over the Minister and his appalling record or do they stand with us and say it’s time to go? Do they stand with the people or not,” she said.

“We have 10,000 people homeless, the population of Longford town homeless, on his watch and things are getting worse.

“This is a national crisis. This is a scandal. It is time to call a halt. It is time for the Minister to go,” said McDonald, with her words sparking applauds from the crowd at the party’s think-in in Cavan.

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