Ireland’s homelessness crisis has been exposed in a striking photograph of a four-year-old girl sitting on the street eating at a soup kitchen.
It is understood that the girl and her family are staying in emergency homeless accommodation in a Dublin hotel.
“She’s a lovely, beautiful little girl she is,” said Jeri Bryne who runs Ballymun Soup Run in Dublin.
The little girl was sitting on a crate eating her dinner from a plastic container when the photo was taken.
Ms Byrne says the girl and her family go to the soup kitchen “every week”.
It is understood that the hotel has a lot of families in emergency accommodation who don’t have access to cooking facilities and therefore rely on the soup kitchen.
The shocking image was uploaded by Ballymun Soup Run on social media with the caption ‘Our Government are to blame for this’.
The photo led Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald to criticise the Dublin government over its handling of the homelessness crisis.
She drew attention to the “shameful” image as a damning indictment of the government’s failure to address the issue.
Speaking in the Dáil, she called for rents to be cut and any increases banned.
McDonald said: “The heart-wrenching image that we have seen again of a four-year-old child sitting on a crate here in the capital city, eating her dinner on the side of the street.
“It’s not the first time that we’ve seen a child eating their dinner in similar circumstances, and this, I suppose, is the sharpest edge of bad policy and of bad government which has seen house prices go up and up.
“Indeed, the CSO [Central Statistics Office] tell us that house prices in Dublin have increased by a staggering 96% in the last nine years.”
Taking aim at the Government’s failure to address rising rents, McDonald used Leaders’ Questions to call for Taoiseach Micheál Martin to “ensure that rents are cut and that increases in rents are banned’ along with a ban on evictions.”
Responding to the criticism, Martin defended the government’s record on homelessness.
He said: ‘That image, that photo, is a very upsetting one, but progress has been made in relation to homelessness in the last ten months. Family homelessness has declined by about 42%.”
Martin, however, did not address any of the demands for rent reforms.
Reflecting on the exchange and ongoing situation, McDonald later tweeted: “On the basis of his non-response and evasion, I can only conclude that the Taoiseach does not believe that rents are too high, that rents need to be cut and frozen, that generation rent needs a break.
“Shameful stuff from the chaos government.”