Minister Alan Kelly rejects call to end his holiday over homeless crisis
Environment Minister Alan Kelly is not planning to cut short his holidays to deal with the "tsunami" of homelessness sweeping the country.
Fianna Fail yesterday demanded that the minister return to his department to take urgent action. New figures have revealed 616 family homes were the subject of repossession orders in the first six months of this year. It also emerged that a couple in their 30s with three children were discovered about to sleep in a Dublin park after being evicted from their home.
A spokesman for Minister Kelly said last night that he was on holidays in Ireland, but was in daily contact with the department and talking to high-ranking officials about the heightening crisis.
"He is fully aware of the situation and being briefed. He doesn't have to be physically in the office to be aware of what is going on and to take action," the spokesman said.
Fianna Fail's spokesman on Dublin, Senator Darragh O'Brien, said the country is in the grip of a housing emergency and an urgent statement was required from the Government.
According to figures released by the Court Service, 616 family homes were the subject of repossession orders in the first six months of this year and orders were granted against a further 284 other properties during the period.
Dublin and Cork households were particularly hard hit, with 97 families losing their home in Dublin and 91 in Cork over the period.
"We are seeing a tsunami of home repossessions sweeping the country.
"The fact that over 600 family homes have already been repossessed since the start of the year is extremely worrying," Senator O'Brien said, adding that the problem of long-term arrears needs urgent action.
"There are 37,933 owner occupiers more than two years behind in their mortgage payments. This category now constitutes 36pc of all accounts in arrears, and 79pc of arrears outstanding.
"The IMF has noted that mortgages continue to move into long-term arrears and said the problem 'will require intensified and sustained efforts' from the authorities here," he added.
Senator O'Brien said more and more families were finding themselves with nowhere to go as their homes face repossession and they cannot afford inflated rents.
Other figures supplied to Fianna Fail show that there were 3,395 civil bills lodged in the first six months of the year.
These are the first stage of the repossessions process and an indicator of the massive problem coming down the line.
The Irish Mortgage Holders Association puts the overall number of householders facing repossession actions in the courts at three times this figure.
"I'd put the figure at in or around 10,000," said spokesman Stephen Curtis who said his organisation was "inundated with calls from people who are facing repossession."