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Alan Kelly was canvassing last night while the Dáil debated homelessness

The Labour deputy leader, who has described the issue as his number one priority, was seeking votes in Roscrea.

Updated 12.54pm 

ENVIRONMENT MINISTER ALAN Kelly was canvassing in his constituency while the Dáil debated a motion on homelessness last night.

The Labour deputy leader posted a photo on Twitter of him canvassing in Roscrea with a group of women as the Dáil was preparing to vote on a Fianna Fáil motion.

Kelly has repeatedly described homelessness and housing as his “number one priority” but his spokesperson said that the minister had a “long-standing commitment” last night.

The Fianna Fáil motion condemned the government’s action on the housing and homelessness crisis, noting that there are 1,600 children and up to 780 families in emergency accommodation.

It called on the government to utilise Nama by directing the agency to provide 10,000 social houses as soon as possible. Kelly had responded to the motion in the Dáil the previous night and lambasted Fianna Fáil.

The party’s environment spokesperson Barry Cowen said it was “very disappointing” that Kelly was not in the chamber last night to hear his response.

“It’s his area of responsibility,” Cowen said.

cowen Barry Cowen

There were other government TDs who contributed to the debate, acknowledged the seriousness of it, acknowledged the crisis, the emergency and even acknowledged that not enough has been done.

He said it was “undignified” for the minister to be canvassing during the debate.

We all want to do as much canvassing as possible, however some have been entrusted with greater responsibilities than others and they have to treat this privilege with the sort of dignity and responsibility it deserves.

A spokesperson for Kelly said the minister’s “dedication” to homeless services has been testified to by people like Trust’s Alice Leahy and Fr Peter McVerry “both of whom are far more knowledgeable in this area than Deputy Cowen”.

19/1/2016. Urban Centres Grant Schemes Alan Kelly

Minister Kelly spoke on the debate the previous night and both the department and government were represented by Minister Paudie Coffey – whom Fianna Fáil have shown total disrespect to and the mandate given to him by the people of Waterford.

Kelly’s spokesperson also launched an attack on Fianna Fáil and Cowen, saying: “Deputy Cowen might answer the question as to why Fianna Fáil forgot homeless people when they drew up their pre-budget submission.

“The government allocated €70 million for homeless services, Fianna Fáil proposed to allocate zero. [He is] using the issue of homelessness for a political football again. Check the record and you’ll see Deputy Cowen misses plenty of housing debates.”

In November 2014, the Dáil had to be suspended for 45 minutes following a row over Kelly’s decision to go to a press conference about the government’s new water charges regime.

Read: A bullish Alan Kelly reckons Labour will win a lot more than 15 seats

Read: Why the John Delaney controversy is another (avoidable) fiasco for Labour

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Hugh O'Connell

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