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Department of Housing won't comment on claims non-EU nationals may be removed from homeless list

The claims top a bad week for Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy in which his department’s monthly reporting of Ireland’s homeless numbers has come in for intense scrutiny.
May 6th 2018, 1:37 PM 45,930 114

5 Minister Eoghan Murphy Rough Sleeper Announcement_90542911 Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy Source: Graham Seely/Rollingnews.ie

THE DEPARTMENT OF Housing has declined to comment on claims that there were plans in train to remove non-EU nationals and those in long-term healthcare facilities from the official homeless figures.

Last week, TheJournal.ie revealed that Louth County Council had been instructed to remove certain categories of people from its official homeless numbers, including people the council itself deemed to be homeless.

The issue of growing monthly homeless figures has proved to be something of a thorn in Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy’s side, with much focus placed on the issue of Ireland’s national figure approaching the milestone 10,000 number for the first time.

This has led to accusations that the government is attempting to massage the figures in order to make them more presentable to the public.

A report in today’s Sunday Independent suggests that senior Housing officials had informed Murphy that hundreds of non-EU nationals, who may not be entitled to housing, and as many as 2,000 people in long-term healthcare, may be currently listed as being homeless in error.

That article suggests that Murphy is understood to be considering removing both cohorts of people from the monthly published figures.

TheJournal.ie contacted the department for comment regarding those claims.

A spokesperson, without addressing the issue of non-EU nationals directly, replied that the department is ‘awaiting’ a report from an interdepartmental group regarding the underlying causes of homelessness.

“The department along with the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive and local authorities continues to work to ensure that emergency accommodation is provided to all those who find themselves homeless,” they said.

The most important thing is that we show compassion for people in times of crisis. That is why we proceed on a care and shelter first basis.

Last month, Murphy told TheJournal.ie, following a delay in the publication of the monthly report on homelessness, that the government needs a better way of collating the figures in order to secure greater accuracy.

At present the Department of Housing receives individual reports from each local authority before compiling its own report.

‘Right to stay’

Housing charity Focus Ireland, meanwhile, suggested this morning, in response to the Independent’s reporting, that roughly five homeless families are “trying to prove their right to stay in Ireland”.

“Shame the only response seems to be ‘let’s leave them out of the figures’,” the group said in a tweet.

Sinn Féin housing spokesman Eoin Ó Broin has written to the chair of the Oireachtas Housing Committee calling for an emergency meeting to discuss the issues raised this week regarding reporting of the monthly homeless numbers.

Other rumours in recent times have suggested that the State may be considering making the monthly reporting a bi-monthly or quarterly exercise.

“I have written to the chair of the Housing Committee, Maria Bailey TD, requesting an emergency meeting of the committee to discuss the minister’s handling of the monthly homeless numbers report,” Ó Broin said today.

Today it is reported in the newspapers that the minister plans to remove more categories of people from the report. This stands in contrast to the minister’s refusal to make changes to the reporting regime last year when it was revealed that certain categories of homeless people are not included in the report, such as adults and children in domestic violence refuge and step-down accommodation funded by Tusla, or former asylum seekers who despite having their leave to remain are trapped in direct provision, effectively using it as emergency accommodation.

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“Minister Murphy cannot be trusted with the monthly homeless report. He and his senior officials must come before the Housing Committee before any further changes are made to the monthly report to explain what they are doing,” he added.

With reporting by Cormac Fitzgerald

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Cianan Brennan

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