Evening top 5: Varadkar says increase in number of homeless families is 'disturbing'; Yulia Skripal's condition 'improving rapidly'

Catch up with the top stories this Thursday evening...

Varadkar admits increase in number of homeless families is 'extremely disturbing'

Leo Varadkar has admitted the continuing increases in the number of homeless families is 'extremely disturbing'.

Yesterday, the Department of Housing revealed there were 1,739 families living in emergency accommodation in February - a rise of 222 compared to January.

It prompted a fresh round of criticism of the Government's approach to the issue - with prominent homelessness campaigners Sr Stanislaus Kennedy and Fr Peter McVerry saying they have lost all confidence "in either the ability or commitment of the Government to solve the housing and homelessness crisis".

Rallies held across country in support of survivors of sexual crimes

Protestors outside the General Post Office (GPO) on O'Connell Street in Dublin today, 29-03-2018. Image: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews

Rallies are being held across the country this lunchtime in support of survivors of sexual crime.

Calls and donations to rape crisis centres spiked in the wake of yesterday's verdict in the Belfast rape trial.

All four men were acquitted on all counts after the nine week trial.

The verdict sparked debate on the public nature of the trial on both sides of the border.

Pro-life group launches 'Save the 8th' campaign

With just eight weeks to go until the abortion referendum – campaigning on both sides is gaining momentum.

On May 25th, Irish people will be asked whether or not they want to repeal the Eighth amendment and allow the Oireachtas to legislate for abortion.

Speaking after the referendum was officially called yesterday, the Minister for Health Simon Harris said the people of Ireland could now have their say on the issue for the first time in a generation.

This morning , the 'Save the 8th' group launched its campaign in Dublin - claiming that a yes vote in the referendum would make Irish people complicit in establishing a 'licence to kill.'

Yulia Skipral "improving rapidly" in hospital following Salisbury attack

Yulia Skripal. Image: Facebook 

The daughter of the Russian spy targeted in the Salisbury nerve agent attack is no longer in a critical condition and is "improving rapidly" to treatment.

Yulia Skipral was found unresponsive on a bench in the southern England town alongside her father Sergei in early March.

In a statement this afternoon, the Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust said Yulia is "no longer in a critical condition" adding that she is now "stable."

Meanwhile, Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, says Russia will close down the US consulate in St Petersburg and expel 60 US diplomats.

The move is a retaliation to the expulsion of Russian diplomats across the world by more than two dozen countries - including Ireland - following the Salisbury attack.

Oireachtas committee calls for formal cyber safety education in schools

An Oireachtas committee has called for formal cyber safety education to be introduced in both primary and secondary schools.

The Children & Youth Affairs Committee has released its 'Report on Cyber Security for Children and Young Adults', which makes a series of recommendations.

Members are calling for the introduction of a digital safety commissioner, who would have a particular focus on children and young people.