Wednesday 22 January 2020

FG minister using 'Trump tactic on homeless issue' says director Sheridan

Director Jim Sheridan (pictured) rapped junior housing minister John Paul Phelan for ridiculing celebrities who support the homeless
Director Jim Sheridan (pictured) rapped junior housing minister John Paul Phelan for ridiculing celebrities who support the homeless

Movie director Jim Sheridan has said the junior housing minister's criticism of celebrities for "banging on" about homelessness when they knew little about the issue was a "low blow".

Minister of State in the Housing Department John Paul Phelan has said he "did not see the point" in musicians and actors weighing into the debate and questioned what they were achieving.

He name-checked celebrities Cillian Murphy and Glen Hansard, whom he said could most likely apply for artistic exemptions from tax


But Oscar nominee and campaigner Sheridan, who supported the Apollo House occupation in 2016, said that it was "so unfair" to hit out at celebrities who were only trying to help highlight the issue.

"The minister is obviously seeking publicity on the back of the homeless issue and his energies would be best used in other ways. It's a Trump-like tactic of pitting people against each other," he said.

He claimed that Artists Exemption Tax, brought in by the late Charles Haughey in 1969, was frequently used as a "stick to beat people with".

"When Haughey introduced it, I think I was the only one who said that it would have a negative impact on artists. They keep banging on about it but it's not a huge amount for people in the arts.''

Mr Phelan was speaking after Peaky Blinders star Cillian appeared at the Simon House of Light event outside Powerscourt Townhouse centre last Thursday.

At the annual event to raise awareness of the work of the Dublin Simon Community (DSC), the actor described homelessness as a "really serious societal issue".

Most recent figures say there are currently 10,514 people in emergency accommodation, including 1,733 families.

Junior housing minister John Paul Phelan
Junior housing minister John Paul Phelan

"Of all the actors I know, Cillian has this Daniel Day Lewis-level of privacy," Jim Sheridan said.

''He just wants to be a working actor and not a celebrity. He doesn't go looking for publicity but he cares about this issue.

''It's another low blow by Fine Gael. They should look at their own people and not try to get a leg-up by using the homeless issue."

Speaking about Murphy's involvement, a DSC spokesperson pointed out that all the choirs, musical acts, special guests and volunteers that participate do so at no charge.

"As DSC is celebrating its 50th year, we are delighted and very grateful that Cillian Murphy agreed to help us launch this year's Simon House of Light event," she said.

"His participation brings welcome attention to the work of DSC and stimulates public debate on homelessness."


Meanwhile, St Vincent de Paul president Kieran Stafford said he did not think it was fair for anyone to criticise celebrities like Glen Hansard, who joined in the Apollo House occupation in 2016 and has long been a supporter of homeless charities.

"Celebrities in this country often use their voice and influence to help our most vulnerable citizens," he said.

"They shouldn't be criticised for that. Over 10,000 people are homeless, so why shouldn't people speak out about that?

"Glen Hansard has been at the forefront of supporting people who are homeless. He's supported many initiatives that have raised money and made a difference to people in need."

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