Alan Murphy and Kelly Gilsenan in the offices of South Dublin County Council, top, and Anti Austerity Alliance TD Paul Murphy, above, in the Dáil yesterday
Yesterday, during Leaders’ Questions, Anti Austerity Alliance TD Paul Murphy told the Dáil about homeless Dublin couple, Alan Murphy and Kelly Gilsenan, who camped out at the offices of South Dublin County Council in protest over their accommodation situation.
The council subsequently sought an injunction from the High Court so that the couple could be removed from the offices.
Yesterday, the High Court was told Alan and Kelly had been moved up the local authority housing list.
However South Dublin County Council told the court it wasn’t sure when Kelly and Alan – who has a six-year-old son with asthma – would be housed as there are 8,500 people on its housing list.
From yesterday’s Leaders’ Questions…
Murphy: “Today, a young couple, Alan Murphy and Kelly Gilsenan, are before the High Court. They are not before the court because they committed a heinous crime, but because they are homeless. They are homeless due to the decisions of this Government. The Government has shown the same disregard to people on rent supplement, who are facing massive hikes in rent, as it has shown to lone parents.”
“Alan suffers from serious epilepsy. He was in a coma in Tallaght hospital and had to quit his job. Kelly is now his full-time carer. They are two of the nicest people one could meet. Their previous landlord sold their house so they were forced to move out. Like many others, they did everything they could to find somewhere else to live. However, they simply could not find a landlord who would accept rent supplement or a rent they could afford. As no suitable accommodation was offered by South Dublin County Council, like others they were forced to sleep in a tent. They decided to bring the problem to the council’s door by sleeping in its offices overnight a couple of weeks ago. The council went to the High Court to seek an injunction to force them out of the offices. Is this what we have come to? Does the Tánaiste stand over a situation where councils are going to the High Court to seek injunctions against homeless people because they do not have sufficient emergency accommodation for them?”
“Since a court case a week and a half ago, the couple have been sleeping in a tent in Sean Walsh Memorial Park. They have also stayed in emergency accommodation. The conditions in the emergency accommodation are horrific. In the first place they stayed, the entrance was blocked with rubbish, the mattresses were covered in urine and mould was growing on the windows. In the next place, there was vomit and food on the floor and unwashed mattresses. Alan and Kelly are not criminals. They are simply homeless as a result of decisions made not by them but by others. However, they are treated like criminals. Their situation, as Alan described it to me yesterday, is like an open prison, with curfews, no cooking facilities and no individual freedom. They are not alone. There are 3,000 people in a similar situation, 1,000 of whom are children. The Tánaiste is responsible for a significant part of this problem by refusing to increase the rent supplement caps while also refusing to introduce rent controls. Will she now review this decision?”
“Meanwhile, there is a hole of €18.5 million in Dublin city’s budget for homelessness services. Will the Government give a commitment to fill that hole? Will it investigate the conditions in emergency accommodation and commit itself to improving them? Finally, will the Tánaiste take note of the housing activists who have taken matters in their own hands? They have taken over a hostel owned by Dublin City Council on Bolton Street, which was just left there. They have refurbished it and are opening it to house homeless people. If they can do that with no resources and as volunteers, given the hundreds of empty NAMA properties throughout the State and in south Dublin why cannot the State take the same action to provide emergency accommodation and social and affordable housing?”
Joan Burton: “First, with regard to Alan and Kelly, if the Deputy has been advising them as constituents, I strongly suggest that he ask them to get in touch with the community welfare service in the area. That has been the consistent advice to people in housing difficulties. They should go and talk to the community welfare service, which has complete discretion with regard to the amount of rent that may be paid. At this point, there have been well over 1,000 cases dealt with by the community welfare service. A total of 1,200 cases are in the Dublin local authority areas and 700 to 800 are throughout the rest of the country. I am surprised if the Deputy has been dealing with the case, as I would hope he would advise the couple to contact the community welfare service….”
Previously: Meanwhile On Bolton Street
Transcript via Oireachtas.ie