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Sinn Féin councillor expresses concern at council’s silence on homeless figures

Sinn Féin councillor expresses concern at council’s silence on homeless figures

Sinn Féin councillor Joanna Byrne has expressed her concern over Louth County Council’s failure to discuss the homeless figures in the county.

It emerged last month that there had been a re-categorisation of the local authority’s homelessness figures.

This issue arose following the direction from Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy to the council to remove 209 people from the monthly report.

Cllr Byrne raised the matter at Monday’s meeting of the council having previously referenced it at last week’s Municipal District meeting in Drogheda. On both occasions she was afforded with the same response that ‘Louth County Council would be making no further comment’.

In total 100 households were removed from the homelessness report as they had been placed in temporary private houses, leased by the local authority, as an alternative to hotel and B&B environments.

Cllr Byrne who is Chairperson of the local authority’s Housing Strategic Policy Committee, started out by commending the Director on his initial transparency on handling this issue and for categorically stating that the decision to remove these 95 adults and 114 children from the report fell at the hands of the Department for Housing and the Minister, and not the local authority, clarifying that Louth County Council still deem these families as homeless.

Cllr Byrne sought a commitment that this transparency would continue regardless of pressure from the Department – a commitment that she did not get.

Cllr Byrne also wanted to know where these people will now fit into the monthly figures going forward but this was not clarified either by Director of Services for Housing Joe McGuinness.

She said: “Whilst I commend the Director for his transparency in dealing with this situation, affording the elected representatives with the facts on this which may have been a bold move, I now want a commitment and re-assurance from him that this transparency will continue despite the pressure from any minister to cover-up homelessness figures, and the no further comment line does not wash with me.

“We as members are now in a position that we do not know our true homelessness figures, we won’t know going forward either unless these are re-instated to the report.”

She continued: “With the Director now remaining tight-lipped, this is worrying. It seems the Minister has got his way by slapping the wrists of Louth County Council’s Housing Department for exposing him and his blatant manipulation of the true homelessness crisis we are facing in this county. I won’t be accepting that.

“I will be demanding that these figures are re-instated into the monthly report so everybody can gauge a true reflection of where we stand in this regard, and only then can we make long-term provisions to help alleviate the issue.”

Cllr Byrne has undertaken to contact Minister Eoghan Murphy’s office and relay the same to him, informing him that she will be monitoring the situation going forward and any further manipulation of figures, or indeed silencing of officials will not be tolerated.

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