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Conor Skehan criticised for claiming disabled homeless boy's family turned down suitable accommodation

Skehan appeared before the Oireachtas Housing Committee yesterday afternoon.

Image: YouTube

THE CONTROVERSIAL CHAIR of the Housing Agency Conor Skehan has come under fire over comments he made in relation to a formerly homeless family yesterday.

Skehan appeared before the Oireachtas Housing Committee yesterday afternoon, where he was questioned over comments he had made recently in the media.

Skehan courted controversy in early January, when he suggested in an interview with the Irish Times that some homeless families may be “gaming the system”.

He had previously said that homelessness was “normal”.

Shehan mounted a robust defence of his comments yesterday when questioned by the Housing Committee.

While being questioned, Skehan referred to the case of one homeless Dublin family in particular, whose story was highlighted last year.

The #MyNameIs campaign launched last summer aimed to highlight the issues facing homeless families and children in Ireland.

As part of the campaign, a video of a young boy David was highlighted. David has cerebral palsy and had been living in unsuitable emergency accommodation for two years.

The video shows him attempting to access a building and having difficulty with his walking support.

It gained a lot of traction when it was first posted.

Skehan’s comments

Referencing the case yesterday, Skehan said that David’s family had turned down an offer of accommodation because “it was a 10 minute bus journey from where they has hoped to secure a home”.

“The same family also refused a transfer to a hotel nearby where they could have had a room adapted for people with special needs but this was not close enough to her mother’s home,” he said.

“Now this comes this next piece to the heart of looking for evidence harder.

“When the facts of this case were brought to me by RTÉ and the Irish Independent. They both investigated and confirmed the story, both indicated that they were anxious to run it.

They both then reverted and advised me it was too dangerous legally to deal with this story.

Responding to Skehan’s comments, a spokesperson for community group Inner City Helping Homeless – who are behind the #MyNameIs campaign – said that David’s family did not turn down suitable accommodation.

“David’s family were offered accommodation five miles away from Swords, on a route with a limited bus service,” the spokesperson said.

As the family don’t drive there isn’t enough daily buses for school runs and David’s CRC and doctors appointments which is why the offer wasn’t suitable for the family’s specific needs.

Skehan faced fresh calls for his resignation as chair of the Housing Agency following his appearance yesterday.

Read: Government’s top housing adviser: ‘Homelessness is a normal thing’

Read: ‘I’m careful with my words’: Conor Skehan stands by his ‘gaming the system’ comments

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Cormac Fitzgerald

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