Housing statistics plan a ‘disgusting’ PR exercise

Opposition parties and charities have labelled mooted Government plans to remove non-EU nationals from homelessness figures as a “disgusting” PR exercise.

Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin, and charities lashed out at Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy and the suggestion last night, despite Government sources insisting it was an attempt to ensure those affected were not stuck in long-term homelessness.

Leaked reports to a Sunday newspaper revealed that the Department of Housing was considering removing non-EU nationals who are without housing or without working rights in Ireland from official homelessness figures. People in some long-term health addiction care may also be affected.

Currently, a small number of non-EU nationals who are homeless are placed in hotels and bed and breakfasts by the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive, despite questions over whether they are legally entitled to the help.

In addition, it has been claimed up to 2,000 people in some long-term healthcare facilities might be incorrectly classed as homeless, as they are in addiction and mental health services.

Last night, Government sources said any potential changes were only being considered, as otherwise the non-EU nationals would be stuck in a homelessness cycle. The sources said some non-EU nationals would be better able to access homes and working rights, if re-classed.

However, just days after a separate row with county councils, over attempts to remove hundreds of people from the official homeless statistics and after further Government attempts to only release figures every three months, instead of every month, opposition parties and charities last night lashed latest plans.

“I was absolutely stunned when I saw this,” said Fianna Fáil housing spokesman Darragh O’Brien.

“There is no reason in the whole wide earth why you would do that, other than to make the figures look better. It’s disgusting,” he said.

His Sinn Féin counterpart, Eoin Ó Broin, said the leaked suggestion was another example of the Government “massaging” figures, and added that some Department of Housing officials are “either confused or incompetent”.

Mr O’Broin said he had written to the Dáil’s cross-party housing committee chairwoman, Fine Gael TD Maria Bailey, requesting an emergency meeting with Mr Murphy, a view Mr O’Brien also backed.

The Simon Community and Focus Ireland said homeless figures must include all who are affected.

A spokesperson for Mr Murphy said the department “awaits” an inter-departmental report on the reasons for homelessness, adding “the most important thing is that we show compassion for people in times of crisis”.

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