From top: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in the dail yesterday; Dr Rory Hearne
In the Dáil yesterday, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in a reply to Independent TD Joan Collins, addressed the findings of a report researched and written by Dr Rory Hearne and his colleague Mary Murphy from Maynooth.
Mr Varadkar attempted to undermine the legitimacy of the report by using dáil privilege to make personal comments about Dr Hearne.
Joan Collins TD,: “Does the Taoiseach agree that families and children should not – as the report and the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission recommend – spend longer than three months in emergency accommodation, including family hubs, and that this should be legislated for and there should be a commitment to close all hubs by December 2019?
Does he agree there is a danger, as the study says, that the newly established family hubs could become a form of direct provision for poor families?… It has been said to the Taoiseach here today that these hubs can possibly become the direct provision centres of the future.
He has heard it and he has had to respond to it. He has to deal with this emergency and meet with this group, Rory Hearne and the housing committee to go through this report. It is really crucial that we deal with these issues now and not let this continue.”
Leo Varadkar:: “I have met Rory Hearne on occasion in the past. I recall he was student union president in Trinity when I was a student there and I think he may even have been an election candidate for one of the left-wing groups more recently than that.
I met him not too long ago at a running event in the Phoenix Park where he was less than pleasant, to put it that way. It certainly was not the kind of polite conversation I would expect from a university academic.”
The report, Investing in the Right to a Home: Housing, HAPs and Hubs, conducted as part of a Europe-wide examination of how to strengthen social investment, shows that the housing crisis has not yet peaked and is in fact likely to escalate over the next five years and that families can be severely damaged and traumatised from living in emergency accommodation, including from family hubs.
UPDATE: An earlier version of this story contained a response from Dr Hearne, which we have removed at his request.