Homeless march took place in earshot of 1916 commemorations

Just as the fanfare from the official commemorations for the Easter Rising 100 years ago was fading, nearby another event was getting under way: a protest highlighting the plight of homeless people.

Homeless march took place in earshot of 1916 commemorations

The march was organised and led by Erica Fleming, whose family’s plight has come to symbolise the issues at the heart of the housing crisis.

The 30-year-old, alongside her nine-year-old daughter, Emily, has been homeless since last June. Yesterday’s protest, which began at 1pm, was to send a reminder that 100 years on from the proclamation, families and children are still living on the margins of Irish society.

The event attracted up to 150 supporters, among them local politicians and RTE broadcaster Ray D’Arcy. Others lending support included Joan Collins TD, former Irish rugby international Trevor Hogan, and former Government junior Minister Ciaran Cuffe.

What was initially planned as a march, beginning in Marlborough St in the city centre, became a stationary protest after some streets were closed off due to the official state commemorations.

Those present heard that a century ago Dublin was the home to the worst slums in Europe, and today the country is still in the midst of a housing crisis, while many on the march held cards asking: ‘What happened to “Cherishing all of the children of the nation equally”?’

Ms Fleming, who featured in the RTE documentary My Homeless Family earlier this year, works part-time and has been living with her daughter in a hotel room for much of the past year.

Ms Collins paid tribute to the mother-of-one and said it was entirely appropriate that the event be held on the same day as official celebrations of the Rising.

Remarking on how she had stayed away from the official programme of events, Ms Collins said: “These were the issues and how could you sit in a nice box and pretend that these things really aren’t happening?”

Afterwards Ms Fleming tweeted: “I really hope it shakes the government and makes them act, now.”

The most recent figures on homelessness showed that in January there were 5,715 men, women and children in emergency homeless accommodation nationally, including 884 families with 1,830 children.

Following last week’s Dáil statements on the housing crisis, the Simon Communities of Ireland reiterated its demand for the new cabinet to have a specific senior Minister for Housing to help address the current crisis, as well as increased rent supports.

Homeless support agencies have also raised the issue of rising rents depriving many people out of the rental market at a time when there is a shortage of social housing.

Meanwhile, another group has announced that it will hold what it called Silent Peaceful Protests against those it said were contributing to forced evictions around the country.

Jerry Beades, spokesperson for The New Land Leagues Group, said the first protest would take place between 10am and 11am tomorrow at Hueston Station in Dublin, before moving on to other locations.

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