Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government

Role of Chairperson of Housing Agency and Related Matters: Discussion

1:30 pm

Photo of Maria BaileyMaria Bailey (Dún Laoghaire, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I will bring Deputy Barry in and Mr. Skehan might respond to both.

I would like to ask Mr. Skehan about what his presentation described as "recently articulated views". I had intended to focus on recently articulated views to the effect that homelessness is normal, and that people are gaming the system, both of which were comments made last year. However, I will now ask about views articulated far more recently than that. What Mr. Skehan has said in this room in the last 30 minutes does not just continue down the path of his comments about the normality of homelessness and gaming the system. It has actually brought things to a point of even greater seriousness than when the invitation to attend this committee was first extended to him.

I have listened to the examples Mr. Skehan has listed, and I have heard scraps of information. I have heard hearsay. I have not heard anything that would constitute real, hard, serious evidence for the line of argument he is making. I have heard people who are in very difficult and vulnerable positions being wheeled out as examples. Mr. Skehan mentioned not one but two young women who are in difficult relationships with their father. For one of these women, physical abuse was part of the issue.

Mr. Skehan has done this while engaged in a particular action, and that action is to defend his position from the criticism he has received in recent times. The effect of his comments is to add fuel to the fire of a narrative that is out there, pushed by sections of the right-wing media. I refer to the old Victorian idea that there are the deserving poor on the one hand and the undeserving poor on the other. His comments add fuel to the fires of prejudice and backward attitudes towards people who find themselves in a very difficult position within our society. I would like to deal with some of the specific points he has raised.

The minutes of Fingal County Council were mentioned. Some 68 offers were refused, 36 were refused by people in homeless services.


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