'National shame' as homeless boy eats food off cardboard
Child homelessness has been branded a "national shame" after an incident in which a homeless boy ate dinner on the street from a piece of cardboard.
Sinn Fein TD Pearse Doherty heavily criticised the Government's response to homelessness as he challenged Tanaiste Simon Coveney in the Dail on how the country can be expected to accept such a situation.
"I don't accept it and nobody in this House should," Mr Coveney said.
"No five-year-old child should be eating their dinner from a piece of cardboard on the street."
However, he also defended the Government's record in helping people to exit homelessness and increasing the housing supply.
It comes after a Dublin volunteer group Homeless Street Cafe posted a picture of the boy - who has been dubbed 'Sam' - on social media on Tuesday night.
Mr Doherty said it showed the people behind the homeless statistics and Sam's life "without a home, without the comfort and security that should be a right for children in this State".
Mr Doherty also criticised the Government and Fianna Fail for opposing a plan to enshrine the right to housing in the Constitution.
He said there are more than 4,000 children like Sam in emergency accommodation who are "condemned to this type of nightmare".
He said the Government sought to "bamboozle" the public with housing statistics but there was a "dark reality" of the crisis that sees more than 10,000 people in emergency accommodation.
Mr Doherty accused the Government of failing parents and children, adding that "it is a national shame".
"How can we accept this as a nation? How can your Government stand over this?" he asked.
Mr Coveney said: "We live in a country that does not accept that."
He said that is why €163m would be spent on homeless services next year.
"Ultimately, what we need to do here is ensure that Sam and little boys like him have security, safety, predictability to allow their parents to look after them knowing that they have a safe tenancy or a home that they can call their own."
Mr Coveney insisted that is what the Government is working toward.
"It makes me angry when I see that the supports that are there are not succeeding in ensuring that little boys like Sam don't find themselves in the position that they were a few nights ago," he added.
The Tanaiste said progress was being made toward people exiting homelessness - with almost 8,000 adults and their families having done so since the beginning of 2018.
He said efforts to bring an end to homelessness would continue to be prioritised, but it would not happen overnight.
He pointed to 10,000 social housing units being delivered this year and over 11,000 planned for 2020.