Conor Skehan reappointed as chair of Housing Agency on 'temporary basis'

Mr Skehan has faced criticism over his claims that some people could be trying to 'game the system' to get housing

Conor Skehan reappointed as chair of Housing Agency on 'temporary basis'

Photo Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews.ie

Updated 18.40

The Housing Minister has reappointed Conor Skehan as chair of the Housing Agency.

The move was confirmed in the Government's official gazette, Iris Oifigiúil.

Mr Skehan, who had been due to step down at the end of 2017, will now continue in the role until the end of this year or until a replacement is found.

In a statement, the Department of Housing explained: "The Department is currently in the process of identifying a suitable replacement. In the meantime, the Minister has asked Dr Skehan to stay on as Chair until a replacement has been appointed."

It adds that the reappointment has been made on a "temporary basis", until a suitable replacement is found through the Public Appointment Service.

Mr Skehan had faced criticism earlier this week after claiming that some people living in emergency accommodation could be 'gaming the system' to get housing.

The housing boss told The Irish Times that people could be declaring themselves homeless to skip the queue for the housing list.

He claimed: “We unwittingly created a problem by prioritising self-declared homelessness above all other types of housing need, which created a distortion in the waiting list system and may have encouraged people to game the system.”

He suggested that it could be gauged by measuring if there had been a “notable change in composition” of people presenting as homeless in recent years.

Fianna Fail's housing spokesperson Barry Cowen described the claim as 'crude and insensitive', and called on the Government to distance themselves from the comments.

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy later expressed skepticism over the claim, saying he had no evidence in his department of people trying to game the system.

"Hard to understand"

Eoin Ó Broin, the Sinn Féin housing spokesperson, took to Twitter today to criticise Mr Skehan's reappointment, saying it 'reflects badly' on the Government and Minister Murphy.

In a statement, Deputy Ó Broin argued: “The Dublin Regional Homeless Executive have made it clear that there is no evidence to support Conor Skehan’s controversial remarks. Minister Murphy has also distanced himself from the comments.

“However to now reappoint Conor Skehan to the chair of the Governments housing policy advice body is a bad decision that will undermine the public credibility of the Housing Agency."

He added: "Minister Murphy should reconsider this ill thought-out decision and appoint a different chair without delay.”

Anthony Flynn of the Inner City Helping Homeless group suggested Mr Skehan 'must go', arguing: "He has continuously criticised the whole homeless sector since news of his original departure broke late last year".