Irish Republican News · September 26, 2015
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Dublin parliament returns amid scenes of death and despair


The body of a homeless man could be the first of several grim discoveries through the winter months following a complete failure of the coalition government to confront the crisis of poverty and inequality in the 26 Counties.

A man had been sleeping rough was found dead at Dawson Lane in Dublin, just a few hundred yards from where another homeless man, Jonathan Corrie, perished in a doorway on Molesworth Street last December.

His death, its proximity to parliament buildings at Leinster House and the public’s reaction led to the government to promise action on homelessness before Christmas last year.

However, nothing has happened and there are fears that a harsh winter could prove fatal for many living in poverty or on the streets.

Homelessness is at one end of a scale that includes a large swathe of the so-called ‘new poor’, chiefly renters on a fixed income or working on low salaries.

The image of one such woman begging on a street in central Dublin caused an outcry earlier this week.

The woman, aged almost 90, was begging because she couldn’t afford to feed herself or pay gas and electricity bills.

Karen Smith from Drogheda was on her way to a protest in central Dublin last Saturday when she passed the woman sitting on the pavement outside the Bank of Ireland on College Green.

“We had to do a double take because we couldn’t believe what we were seeing,” Ms Smith said. “When I spoke to her she couldn’t afford to do anything other than pay rent. She was a lovely lady. It broke my heart having to leave her there.”

The elderly have been struggling to pay new taxes and charges along with rising fuel and health costs.

“Pensioners in this country should not be forced to choose between paying for medicine and keeping the heat on,” said Justin Moran, head of advocacy at Age Action. “Older people spent a lifetime building this country. They shouldered their share of the burden of austerity. As the economy returns to growth, they have a legitimate expectation that the sacrifices they made will be acknowledged.”

The Simon Community warned on Wednesday that rising rents were continuing to push people around the State into homelessness and said rent supplement must be increased and rent certainty introduced immediately.

Simon Communities spokesman Niamh Randall described homelessness in Ireland as a “humanitarian crisis” with 3,372 adults and 1,496 children currently in emergency homeless accommodation.

“It is essential that the government does not lose sight of the ultimate goal which is to ensure that people who are homeless have access to long-term homes with the right support,” said Ms Randall.

“We need ongoing action to ensure that housing is delivered to those who need it most. The biggest challenge right now is access to appropriate, affordable housing and, unless urgently addressed, more people will suffer, more people will end up homeless and the trapped in emergency accommodation.”

Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly has admitted that rent increases by price-gouging landlords is contributing to the numbers of low-income households losing their homes.

He said he agreed that it is a “humanitarian crisis”.

“Homelessness is always a serious issue and absolutely everything that can be done will be done and is being done.”

Last week, Tanaiste and Labour leader Joan Burton was criticised for turning the opening of a food bank for the hungry into a photo-opportunity. Burton was pictured smiling and laughing as she cut the ribbon at the Dublin Food Bank, operated by Crosscare, an agency of the Catholic church in Dublin.

On Tuesday evening, TDs returning from their summer break were greeted by two protests outside Leinster House. About 100 people took part in the protests, which were organised by the Irish Housing Network and Right2Housing.

Addressing the crowd, People Before Profit councillor Brid Smith said there would be a demonstration on December 1st - the anniversary of Mr Corrie’s death - near the doorway in which he was found dead.

“We want to see loads more people here and loads more people coming on board,” she said. “Nobody owns this issue. It belongs to everybody. It affects everybody. In solidarity we need to stick together and fight the Government really hard.”

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