Housing Agency head keeps job despite outbursts against homeless
Housing Agency head keeps job despite outbursts against homeless


A notorious Irish civil servant who claims that homelessness is “normal” and that some of those seeking shelter are trying to “game the system” has been reappointed as head of the Dublin government’s Housing Agency.

The reappointment of Conor Skehan to chair the body responsible for directing policy on housing has underlined the desire of the right-wing Fine Gael government wants to drive property prices higher, regardless of social concerns.

Skehan recently insisted that Ireland does not have a housing problem, despite a 50% increase in property prices over the past 5 years. He said Irish people tend to be “too inward-looking”, which has led some people to overstate the severity of the country’s housing problems.

“Our housing crisis is completely normal. Every country in Europe has equivalent issues in terms of affordability, in terms of homelessness,” he said. “One of the tragedies of living on an island is that we are people who indulge in insular thinking.”

The chair of the Housing Agency said we need to move from a situation where we use words like “homeless” and “crisis”.

“Homelessness is a dreadful thing when it happens to someone, but it is a normal thing, it happens,” he said.

His claims that Ireland has a relatively low figure for homelessness, have been echoed by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, but strongly discredited by experts in the field.

He also pointed to a measure introduced in January 2015, but since dropped, where half of all social homes were to be allocated to homeless people, as a reason people declare themselves as homeless in order to “game the system”. The comments were agan roundly criticised by homeless charities, and the Department of Housing was forced to admit there was no evidence to support the claim.

Despite the controversial statements, Mr Skehan, who had been due to step down at the end of 2017, is to continue in the role.

Eoin O Broin, the Sinn Fein housing spokesperson, condemned Mr Skehan’s reappointment, saying it ‘reflects badly’ on the government and Minister.

“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,” Mr O Broin said.

“Minister Murphy should reconsider this ill thought-out decision and appoint a different chair without delay.”

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