When will the Dáil get se­ri­ous about tack­ling scourge of home­less­ness?

The Kerryman (South Kerry Edition) - - OPINION -

DUBLIN City Coun­cil seems to be tak­ing a leaf from the books of the capital’s rich­est res­i­dents. Like prof­its of the multi­na­tion­als that helped fuel the surge in house prices and the mil­lion­aire de­vel­op­ers who built the vastly over­priced homes, the coun­cil con­sid­ered a sim­i­lar strat­egy by also mov­ing its home­less ‘off­shore’.

Off the streets and into a cruise liner. Not a lux­ury liner, of course, more a float­ing ghetto for Ire­land’s least for­tu­nate.

At least they’d be off the streets, was the coun­cil’s warped logic. Yes, off the streets and out of sight. And we all know that out of sight means out of mind.

That’s the real crux of the home­less cri­sis and why so lit­tle is be­ing done about it.

It is largely hid­den away – be­hind the closed doors of hos­tels and ho­tels the length and breadth of the county – and many peo­ple ei­ther don’t know its true ex­tent or just don’t care as long as they don’t have to see it for them­selves.

There are ob­vi­ously still many hun­dreds of peo­ple liv­ing rough on the streets but most of Ire­land’s home­less are hid­den away.

An in­vis­i­ble mul­ti­tude of men, women and chil­dren who are cry­ing out for help but who are nei­ther be­ing heard nor lis­tened to.

The na­tion­wide ap­a­thy about the dismal fail­ure of our coun­try to take care of its most vul­ner­a­ble has al­lowed our po­lit­i­cal lead­ers to avoid the is­sue.

There are al­ways a few mealy mouthed plat­i­tude’s when­ever the hous­ing cri­sis is men­tioned – a pledge to spend a lit­tle money over the next decade or so – but there has been no tan­gi­ble ac­tion.

That’s as much the pub­lic’s fault as the politi­cians. The only thing the par­ties fear is los­ing power. Home­less­ness should be the great­est po­lit­i­cal is­sue of our time. The Government needs to know that if it doesn’t deal with the cri­sis, it could find it­self drummed out of the plush lodg­ings of Le­in­ster House.

Past ex­pe­ri­ence shows that un­til they re­alise their jobs are ac­tu­ally on the line, Ir­ish politi­cians are no­to­ri­ously slow to act. It’s time to put that fear to good use.

The hous­ing cri­sis needs to be the big­gest is­sue of the next elec­tion and we mustn’t al­low the par­ties dis­tract us from it with prom­ises of tax cuts or other juicy give-aways.

Ei­ther the Government gets its act to­gether and starts build­ing houses now – not in two or three years time – or we dump them out of of­fice.

No more ex­cuses and no more ma­nip­u­lated hous­ing sta­tis­tics. Deal­ing with the cri­sis will cost money, a lot of it. It’s as sim­ple as that and there is no avoid­ing it.

Last week a young school­girl called Amanda broke hearts when she told RTÉ about the two years – two full years – that she has lived in the same ho­tel room with her fam­ily.

Politi­cians, of course, de­liv­ered their usual empty ex­pres­sions of sym­pa­thy and rolled out a few sta­tis­tics on spend­ing plans.

That’s not much good to Amanda and her fam­ily. They don’t need tea and sym­pa­thy. They, and thou­sands more like them, need a home. Stop talk­ing and get it done.

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