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14th Jul 2023

Leo Varadkar claims homeless people are refusing social housing in Ireland

Kat O'Connor

The comments have proved controversial.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has claimed around 5,000 homeless people have turned down an offer of social housing in the last two years.

The Taoiseach added that people have the right to refuse such an offer. He also said that the Government has no plans of introducing a cap on the number of times a homeless person can do this.

Earlier in the week, Varadkar claimed during a Housing for All update that there are “lots of people” in emergency accommodation who have “refused multiple offers of social housing”.

Defending his Government’s efforts to combat the housing crisis, he said during the update:

“I think you measure success and progress based on things that you know you can control.

“Of course, one of those metrics is going to be homelessness… But it would be just simply inaccurate to say that the Government has control over things like the number of family breakdowns that occur, the number of people who are new arrivals who seek emergency accommodation.

“Even within homelessness, and I work with a lot of people who are in emergency accommodation in my constituency, there are lots of people who are in emergency accommodation and have refused multiple offers of social housing.

“It’s a much more complicated picture than people would like to make it out to be.”

Varadkar was subsequently accused by Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty in the Dáil of shifting the housing crisis blame onto those affected by it rather than the Government accepting its own mistakes.

In response, the Taoiseach said: “The situation is that, in the past two years, about 5,000 people on the housing list have turned down an offer of social housing, and they had the right to do so.

“The reasons are documented, sometimes they’re good reasons, sometimes they’re not. But we do allow people the right to refuse.”

Doherty called on Varadkar to apologise to homeless people for putting the blame on them, stating that his comments caused “real hurt”.

The Taoiseach said he would rephrase his remarks and said “some” people have refused accommodation rather than “plenty”.

As of May 2023, 12,441 people were accessing emergency accommodation in Ireland.

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