Activists have challenged Leo Varadkar's suggestion that Ireland has a low rate of homelessness by international standards
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:
Context matters. Was asked a question yesterday about Ireland having one of the highest homelessness levels. We don’t by international comparison. That's a fact. It is nonetheless a stain on our society and we’ll do all we can to eliminate it.— Leo Varadkar (@campaignforleo) November 12, 2017
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin accused the Taoiseach of attempting to 'understate the reality':
For too many Irish families, homelessness is a frightening and depressing reality. The Taoiseach's attempts to understate this reality by making pointless comparisons insults these families, as children continue to live in hotel bedrooms.— Micheál Martin (@MichealMartinTD) November 11, 2017
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."
These monthly numbers do not include rough sleepers & those staying is squats, hidden homelessness people living in unsuitable, overcrowded, unsustainable accommodation, those in accommodation not funded through section 10 - many thousands of people struggling— Niamh Randall (@NiamhRandall) November 11, 2017
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.
Data is v. clear - Irish homelessness higher than 'peers' of similar size - and getting worse. @MurphyEoghan @campaignforleo Source Prof O'Sullivan TCD. Any homelessness is wrong. pic.twitter.com/Z7ArkY4KjY— Mike Allen (@MikeAllenFI) November 11, 2017
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."