From top: *Sam eating from a cardboard sheet on Grafton Street on Tuesday night; Sinn Féin deputy leader Pearse Doherty; Tánaiste Simon Coveney in the Dáil today
During Leaders’ Questions in Dáil Éireann.
Sinn Féin deputy leader Pearse Doherty raised the picture of a five-year-old boy *Sam (not his real name) eating a pasta dinner given to him by a homeless charity while kneeling on a piece of cardboard on Grafton Street in Dublin on Tuesday night.
Just over two weeks ago, the most recent figures from the Department of Housing showed there were 10,345 people (6,490 adults and 3,848 children) living in emergency accommodation in the final week of August.
The figure represent a decrease of seven adults but an increase of 70 children compared to the figures for the final week of July.
This afternoon, Mr Doherty addressed Tánaiste Simon Coveney when he said:
“The photograph showed a five-year-old boy eating his dinner off a sheet of cardboard on the ground in this city.
“Sam is the boy in that photograph, he’s five years old. He goes to school like any other child but Sam is homeless.
“Sam and his mum live in emergency accommodation like thousands of other families in this state.
“The Homeless Street Café, the homeless group, who met Sam on Tuesday night, made clear that his mother is trying her best to provide nutritious home-cooked meals for her children
“But, like so many parents of the homeless children of this state, they live in emergency accommodation that strictly forbids them from cooking meals for their children.
“That is Sam’s life, Tánaiste. Without a home, without the comfort and security which should be a right for every children [sic] in this State.
“That’s the life of nearly 4,000 children like Sam that have been condemned to this type of nightmare.
“There is only one place our children should be on a Tuesday night. And that is safely tucked up in their beds, in their home, with their families.
“The moral stain of child homelessness in Ireland is creating a lost generation. Children who are having their childhood stolen from them, right before our eyes.
“Stunting their development, harming their education, exposing them to hardships that no child deserves and that no society should accept.
“Behind the statistics, Tánaiste, the Minister for Housing tries to bamboozle the public with, there is a stark and dark reality of our housing crisis.
“A crisis that your government has manufactured, a crisis that many are profiting from, from the suffering of others.
“We’ve over 10,000 people recorded as homeless at the end of August of this year.
“That’s the seventh month in a row where we have those figures recorded – a 365 per cent increase during a five-year period of unending, uninterrupted, economic growth.
“And these figures don’t even provide the full picture, Tánaiste, they don’t include the women and children living in domestic violence shelters, funded by Tusla, they don’t include the adults and children living in hostels that aren’t funded by Government departments.
“And they don’t include those still living in Direct Provision, despite having secured their leave to remain.
“This is the Republic that you and your government are building. These are the parents and children you’re failing, children like Sam.
“This is not a republic of opportunity that cherishes all of the children of the nation equally.
“It is a national shame.”
More to follow.
Earlier: Dear Sam