SF Ard Fheis: 'Bad policy caused Jonathan Corrie's death'

SF Ard Fheis: 'Bad policy caused Jonathan Corrie's death'

By Fiachra Ó Cionnaith, Irish Examiner Political Reporter

The tragic death of homeless man Jonathan Corrie just yards from the Dáil last December "did not happen by accident" and was the direct result of Government housing policies based on "the size of your wallet", the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis has heard.

Sinn Féin TD Jonathan O Brien made the claim in a speech on the need to ensure a right to housing becomes a tangible right instead of a mantra at the party's Ard Fheis today.

Speaking in Derry on the second day of the annual conference, the Cork North Central TD said the vulnerable homeless man lost his life not because of freezing temperatures or drug issues, but because of "bad government and bad policy".

Describing it as an "indictment" of the coalition's approach to the housing issue, he said the death is just one example of how too much focus on "big profits in the sector" has allowed real crises to be ignored.

Hitting out at how it took Mr Corrie's tragic case for the issue to be noticed, he insisted a "credible housing strategy" is now desperately needed.

However, despite the call, he alleged the Government's approach to the matter is "already in tatters" and that it continues to be too focussed on "the size of you wallet" instead of the size of a person's requirements.

The comments are likely to cause considerable anger among those close to Environment Minister Alan Kelly, who said the housing crisis and the related homelessness issues are at the top of the agenda.

Speaking at last weekend's Labour conference in Killarney, Mr Kelly outlined plans to introduce what he described as "rent certainty" which include proposals to freeze rent levels for three to four years in the private sector, at the agreement of landlords and tenants.

However, landlords have insisted the proposals are not workable and amount to a legally questionable "rent cap", with one group calling on the Minister to consider re-opening bed sits and encouraging people to move to rural areas.

In the immediate aftermath of Mr Corrie's death, Mr Kelly also introduced a series of measures which he promised would resolve the crisis fully by the end of this year.

However, despite the moves being widely welcomed, Labour's deputy leader was embroiled in a public spat with Fr Peter McVerry last month after the long-time homelessness campaigner said for the first time "since the Famine" entire families are facing life on the streets.

Speaking on RTE radio last week, Focus Ireland's Mike Allen said 52 families became homeless in January because of surging rents.

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