Latest: Leo Varadkar responds after 'highly insensitive' remarks on homelessness criticised

Update 3.49pm: Leo Varadkar has today referred to the homeless situation in Ireland as "a stain in our society".

His comments come after several homelessness groups reacted furiously to comments by the Taoiseach that Ireland's homeless rate is "low by international standards".

Organisations including the Simon Communities and Inner City Helping Homeless highlighted that the Irish figure doesn't include people who are rough sleepers or squatters.

Leo Varadkar insisted that the Government is actively working on the issue.

"I believe that homelessness is a stain on our society, and is something that we need to do everything we can to reduce, and eliminate if possible

"Housing, though, is about more than homelessness - it's about people being able to afford a home.

"We've huge numbers of people now renting. A lot of them want to rent, but there are others who would prefer to be able to buy their own home, but it's quite difficult to do that now because of a lack of supply.

"So there's different aspects to this issue."

Earlier:

There has been an angry reaction to the Taoiseach's comments about homelessness at yesterday's Fine Gael conference in Cavan.

Leo Varadkar said the Government's housing plan is working, and the country has a "low rate of homelessness by international standards".

The Simon Communities of Ireland have tweeted, saying the Irish figures do not include rough sleepers, and those in squats or on friends' sofas.

Anthony Flynn CEO of Inner City Helping Homeless says it is an outrageous remark that shows just how detached from reality the Government is.

He said: "The Taoiseach and the Minister are not on the ground, they are not seeing how bad the problems are.

"The fact that housing homeless wasn't on the agenda for the Fine Gael National Conference shows that the situation is not being taken as seriously as it should be."

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions has also criticised Mr Varadkar's "highly insensitive" remarks.

Congress General Secretary, Patricia King, said: "The Taoiseach's attempt to minimise our housing and homeless emergency was highly insensitive and entirely lacking in any sense of empathy for the plight of the 8,374 people who are currently homeless.

"They cannot be wished away, nor can this crisis be minimised by some meaningless statistical comparison. They are real people denied the fundamental human right to shelter.

"We are one of the richest countries in the world yet, to our shame, we have a housing and homeless emergency and instead of trying to minimise the problem, the Government should end their denial, declare a national emergency and bring forward urgent, workable solutions.

"All the indications are that the housing crisis will get worse rather than better and the Taoiseach should not seek any succour in misleading and meaningless statistical comparisons."


 

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