SF says Murphy ‘not competent or fit’ for housing role
Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy is either “not competent or not fit” to hold office as he either does not understand how homelessness was defined, or was deliberately manipulating the term, an Oireachtas committee has heard.
Sinn Féin housing spokesman Eoin Ó Broin made the comments as he questioned the Minister about the removal of 578 individuals from the State’s homelessness figures.
When publishing the March homelessness figures last month, Mr Murphy’s department said it had established that several local authorities had “miscategorised” 247 adults and 331 children as homeless and “consequently these were deducted from the figures”. The March figures showed a fall in the number of homeless from 9,807 to 9,681. The number of adults classified as destitute fell from 6,052 to 6,035, and children from 3,755 to 3,646.
The move has been controversial as it emerged at least four local authorities – Dublin City, Waterford City and County, Louth County and Limerick City and County councils – had removed families from their homelessness figures despite them remaining in temporary accommodation funded from a homelessness funding stream known as “section 10” funding.
Three local authorities – Kildare, Wicklow and Meath – refused to remove families in such accommodation from their homelessness figures.
Mr Ó Broin told Mr Murphy that either he was a Minister “who does not understand the difference between a tenancy and emergency accommodation – in which case you are not competent to hold the job you do – or you do understand them and you still allow this [removal of homeless families from the homelessness figures], in which case you are not fit to hold the job”.
He said the definition of homelessness had been carefully worked out by experts and its meaning was “crystal clear” to those working on the ground.
Mr Murphy said the charges Mr Ó Broin had made were “very serious”, and that he was “creating confusion”.
“You don’t have the complete information,” he said, adding that a report on the categorisation of homeless individuals was being compiled. He would “discuss and debate” it when
Mr Murphy said any recategorisation only happened with the “agreement of the local authorities”. He would not turn around and tell someone who was sleeping rough or in a night-to-night hostel that they were in the same category as people who had accommodation that provided their “own key” and a “front door”.
Mick Barry TD, the Solidarity spokesman on housing, said he suspected the Minister wanted the families removed from the figures as he feared the total number of people on homelessness lists would soon exceed 10,000, which would put him under “political pressure”.
“The overwhelming majority of those removed are in accommodation under section 10 funding. The idea that these would be removed from the lists without discussion shows a degree of panic.”