Everybody in the House will, I am sure, share a sense of sadness and anger at the current record levels of homelessness announced yesterday. There are 6,480 adults and 3,784 children living in emergency accommodation. As we know, these figures do not tell the full story. They have been massaged and managed to try to keep them as low as possible. Despite the massaging, management and spin, they represent the reality for the adults and children concerned under the watch of the Government.
The Tánaiste was Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government in 2016 when Rebuilding Ireland was relaunched. At the time, he said it was an ambitious plan and that it was the Government's main priority. He also said: "If urgency is not there, we will get into the system." In July 2016 there were 6,525 people living in emergency accommodation. The only things that have gone into the system since are almost 4,000 more people. They have entered emergency accommodation because of inaction under Rebuilding Ireland which was the Tánaiste's plan when he was Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, as well as the Government's. It was tailored to meet economic conditions of the time. It outlined the many changes the Government was going to make, but, as in the case of every initiative taken by the Government, it was based and founded on spin and had no substance. The figures announced yesterday are what we have to show for it, which is a source of sadness and anger. Surely, the figures should represent a call to action by the Government, instead of spin and more promises.
We need action on a number of issues. The local authorities still do not have discretion to build small or medium housing estates. They still have to interact with the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government to receive clearance and so on. We also need action on evictions. Deputy Frank O'Rourke has done a lot of work in this area. People have to be evicted into homelessness before they can access a HAP scheme payment. If the Government will not listen to voices in this House, surely it will listen to the United Nations which hammered its policies, in particular, for allowing vulture funds to buy properties and then rent them at high rates. There is a range of people dealing with this issue who are losing confidence in the Government's ability, but it will not listen. The Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, in an interview this morning with Bryan Dobson, accused him of having an ideological position because he was being asked hard questions.
Will the Government finally fess up to the fact that its plan, Rebuilding Ireland, is not working? The Government and the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government need to re-orient their housing plan to deliver and address the fact that under their watch there are 6,480 adults and 3,784 children dependent on emergency accommodation.