Taoiseach criticised for 'worrying' comments on homelessness

Activists have challenged Leo Varadkar's suggestion that Ireland has a low rate of homelessness by international standards

Taoiseach criticised for 'worrying' comments on homelessness

Photo: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews.ie

Updated at 15.15

Homeless activists have strongly criticised the Taoiseach's comments about homelessness.

Speaking at Fine Gael's national conference in Cavan yesterday, Leo Varadkar said the Government's housing plan is working, and the country has one of the "lowest levels of homelessness".

He argued: "The number of people in emergency accommodation has increased in the last number of years, but by international standards, homelessness in Ireland is low."

He later moved to clarify his comments on Twitter:

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin accused the Taoiseach of attempting to 'understate the reality':

The Simon Communities of Ireland tweeted in response to the initial suggestion, saying the Irish figures on homelessness do not encompass everyone without a home.

Reacting to the Taoiseach's remarks, the organisation's spokesperson Niamh Randall stated: "This narrative must be challenged. It’s not true.

"Other countries use a broader definition of homelessness when gathering their statistics. Our monthly statistics only record a limited number - those who are in Section 10 funded emergency accommodation."

She added: "We need to challenge the notion that any level of homelessness is acceptable."

Focus Ireland's Mike Allen said the comment was 'factually and morally' wrong.

Meanwhile, Anthony Flynn - CEO of Inner City Helping Homeless - says it's an "absolutely outrageous" remark that shows just how detached from reality the Government is.

Highlighting the latest figures showing that 3,124 children are in emergency accommodation, Mr Flynn said: "The Taoiseach and the Minister are not on the ground - they're not seeing exactly how bad the problems are.

"The comments that have been made are very saddening and worrying [...] It's a very, very serious situation, so these kind of comments are not very helpful."