Sinn Fein willing to back prefab plans ... but only as 'emergency' measure
SINN Fein politicians in Dublin are prepared to support controversial plans to house people in prefabs as an emergency response to the homeless crisis.
Party strategists have given their backing to the move on the condition that a long-term solution is found to address the serious shortage of council homes in the capital.
Proposals by Dublin City Council to use the prefabs have caused outrage and have been met with strong opposition by Tanaiste Joan Burton and Environment Minister Alan Kelly.
Officials believe housing families in hotels is unsuitable as children have to sleep in the same room as their parents and there are no cooking facilities.
The proposal, being opposed by the majority of parties, has been met by unlikely support from the largest party on Dublin City Council, Sinn Fein.
Party councillors have been advised to support the measures as a "temporary solution" to the homeless crisis.
In correspondence between a number of Sinn Fein's politicians on Dublin City and South Dublin County Council, it is stated that the proposals should not be opposed as emergency measures.
However, the correspondence illustrates the desire among party officials not to be seen to publicly support such an unpopular measure.
"Separately we shouldn't be publicly supporting housing people in prefabs," the correspondence states. "However if the council sets them up as emergency measures we should also not oppose them, but ensure that the living conditions are better than the hotels and B&Bs currently in use and that they are temporary," it adds.
Sinn Fein's Housing spokesperson Dessie Ellis has been a vocal critic of the Government's efforts to solve the homeless crisis in Dublin.
In a letter to Minister Kelly this week, Mr Ellis said "serious attention" needs to be paid to the housing situation in Dublin.
But it will come as a surprise that Sinn Fein is willing to back such a controversial proposal that even Government ministers say should not be pursued.
The remarks come as new figures obtained by the Herald show a dramatic reduction in the number of families who receive rent supplement.
The relief measure, designed to prevent people from becoming homeless, is being handed out to the lowest number of recipients in years.
There were some 74,080 recipients of the rent supplement countrywide this month - compared to 93,030 in 2008.
Figures supplied to Dublin City councillor Ruairi McGinley show that the State has slashed the overall rent supplement by 50pc, or over €200,000, over the past five years.
A significant reduction in rent supplement in Dublin has occurred as the city council proposes building prefabs on derelict sites to ease demand.
Mr McGinley, who is closely associated with former European Affairs Minister Lucinda Creighton, said he believes the homeless crisis has escalated as a direct result of the cuts.
"I suggest that rent supplement levels in Dublin are increased immediately as it is clear that increases in social housing output are too slow to cope with current situation," he said.