Tá na mic linn taobh amuigh den Dáil agus iad ag agóid mar go bhfuil siad ag stopadh in óstáin, i lóistín Bhia agus Leaba agus i mbrúnna óige. Tá mic léinn eile ag taistil ar feadh uaireanta fada gach uile lá, óna dtithe féin, isteach go dtí an chathair ar maidin agus ar ais tráthnóna agus níos measa arís, tá mic léinn ag bogadh ó tholg go tolg gach oíche. Is é an cheist atá againn ná cá huair a bheidh deireadh leis an scannal seo?
You would have to have a heart of stone not to be affected by the stories we heard this week from the countless families and individuals who have been failed by the Government's housing policy. I refer to stories from those of the families whose houses have been affected by mica and who continue to campaign for 100% redress as their homes crumble around them to those of students who told us how what should have been one of the proudest and most exciting moments for any students, namely, going off to college, has turned into a nightmare for many of them because they cannot meet the most basic needs, namely, finding a place to live.
I am not sure whether the Tánaiste heard the harrowing stories told yesterday by those who further on in years. On "Liveline" we heard the reality of a broken system laid bare. We heard Sandra, a woman in her 50s, share her story with us. In tears, she said she could not afford her rent and is living in a shed with no running water. She said she felt ashamed and that there is no hope, but the only people who should feel ashamed are those sitting on that side of this House. I refer to the Members on those benches who have presided over a situation where people today are living in sheds with no running water.
This is a crisis that is ruining people's lives. It is absolutely devastating. It is a crisis that impacts on every citizen in the State, from the cradle to the grave. As we meet here this afternoon, outside the gates of Leinster House students are protesting due to the lack of accommodation for them. Many of them are staying in hotels, bed and breakfast accommodation or hostels, and are paying crazy prices. Others are commuting the long distance from home to college every day, with many more of them going from home to home, house to house, couch to couch, with a rucksack on their back and a sleeping bag under their arm. This is having a profound effect on access to education and it particularly disadvantages people from rural communities.
This is a ridiculous and unsustainable situation, but it has been well flagged to the Tánaiste, his Government and previous Governments for many years. It is a situation made worse as a result of the provision of tax breaks to those who were supposed to provide purpose-built student accommodation, only for many of the units in question to be now repurposed into tourist accommodation. The Tánaiste will trot out a line, as he has been doing in the media, about Fine Gael wanting to see tax cuts in this budget, while people like Sandra cannot get a roof over their heads, while there are 1,000 students in Waterford who do not have a home and while students across the State cannot find accommodation. The Government's priorities are clear.
Does the Tánaiste accept that the Government's housing policies have failed the young and the old to a spectacular degree? When he answers that question, I ask him please to listen to the stories and voices we heard over this week, from mica families to students and people like Sandra and other women. Does he accept, as the president of Dublin City University, DCU, said today, that the Government's Housing for All plan is uneconomic, based on a false assumption and will only result in rents beyond the ability to pay for most students and their families? Will the Government, as an immediate measure, do what our party spokesperson for higher education, Deputy Conway-Walsh, has been calling on it for many months to do, namely, legislate to prevent purpose-built student accommodation being repurposed as tourist accommodation?