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owen keegan

Council Chief Executive criticised for saying good homeless services create demand

“Dublin is a major draw for people who are homeless,” Keegan said.

Dublin City Council Chief Executive Owen Keegan PA Archive / PA Images PA Archive / PA Images / PA Images

DUBLIN CITY COUNCIL’S Chief Executive Owen Keegan has been called on to apologise after saying that people may be reluctant to leave homeless services in Dublin because they are now “an attractive” option. 

As first reported in today’s Sunday Business Post, Keegan said that massive investment in homeless services over the past number of years has led to a reluctance on the part of some homeless people to move on due to “higher-quality spaces”. 

“This is not questioning people’s motives, but Dublin is a major draw for people who are homeless because there is a very wide range of service provision,” said Keegan, whose remarks have been criticised by homeless service providers and politicians. 

Sinn Féin TD Eoin Ó Broin described Keegan’s remarks as “bizarre and hurtful” this afternoon and called on him to apologise. 

“Families are not in emergency accommodation because it is ‘attractive’,” Ó Broin has said. “They are homeless because of a lack of social and affordable homes.”

“The suggestion that good quality emergency accommodation is ‘attractive’ and encouraging people into homelessness or making them reluctant to move on to permanent housing is deeply insulting to the hundreds of parents whose families have been made homeless.”

Ó Broin has said that the root cause of homelessness is an “underinvestment in public housing” and went on to criticise the targets laid out in the government’s Rebuilding Ireland strategy. 

‘Easier to blame homeless families’

Emergency accommodation figures for December show that there were collectively 9,753 people living in emergency accommodation across Ireland, a drop of 215 people when compared with November. 

The vast majority of these are in Dublin and include families living in hotels. 

The council’s Keegan has said that there “is significant political support for homelessness services, significant public support so there’s been a huge investment in public services.”

Keegan also said that he’d “prefer if people were in long-term, permanent accommodation” but said that he was proud of the council’s track record in tackling the crisis.

Dublin City Council’s Chief Executive, who has said that an increase in homeless families in Dublin has led to further pressures on the system, also came in for criticism from Mike Allen, Director of Advocacy at Focus Ireland.

Allen said that the “demand for homeless services is created [by] the failure of [the council's housing department] to build homes.”

“But it seems to be easier to blame homeless families than take responsibility,” Allen tweeted. 

Anthony Flynn, CEO of Inner City Helping Homeless, has described Keegan’s comments as “completely disingenuous”.

“To suggest that anyone wants to remain within homeless services is ludicrous,” Flynn said today. “[The] real reason why people are forced to remain in homeless services is because of the systemic failures of the [Dublin Regional Homeless Executive] and a lack of build from [Dublin City Council].”

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