I am acutely aware of how tragic it is that as the Dáil begins our final debates before we rise for Christmas, that we have to once again discuss the failure of Government, and the Irish State in relation to child and family homelessness.
I honestly don’t know what else to say at Christmas about the disgraceful lack of urgency in providing solutions to child and family homelessness.
Having thought about what to say here today, I don’t want to repeat all that has been put on the record before.
However as this is a debate about child and family homelessness I want to share with you Minister and the members of this house, the reality of the children and families who have no home.
As some of you may know, I have worked in my family’s hotel in Glendalough all my life until becoming a full time politician when elected by the people less then two years ago.
In over 40 years in the hotel business, through three recessions, the 70’s, the 80’s and the most recent crash, I have never witnessed until this year what I am about to outline to you.
Glendalough Hotel is located in central Wicklow, 50 kilometres from Dublin City, which as we all know is the epicentre of the child and family homelessness epidemic.
On several occasions this year, my hotel has accommodated families with children who have been sent by Dublin local authorities because there are no homes available in one of the fastest growing cities in Europe.
These families arrive in the late afternoon, after picking up their children from Dublin primary schools. They have made the over an hour journey by car after spending the morning ringing hotel after hotel for bookings, eventually having no choice but to pick my hotel some 50 kilometres from their home city. The family – mother, father, two primary going children arrive tired and anxious, a little embarrassed about arriving not as tourists but as economic refugees.
The team at our hotel make every effort to welcome these guests while at the same time realising that this is not the reason they pay their taxes. These families should not be forced to endure this.
Both the family and the staff make every effort to pretend that this situation is normal so as not to cause any further stress.
Once some food has been made available, this Irish family are allocated their room and the parents try and get their children settled and hopefully able to do some normal activities such as homework, showered and television, all in a hotel room, before putting them to bed.
The next morning Minister, these families get up very early in the morning as the parents must get the kids ready for school, in their little uniforms of Dublin City Schools and make the long journey back to our nations Capital for school and work.
Then one of the parents makes contact with the Dublin local authority once again to see if any accommodation can be made available.
They are told again that there is no housing available, but there is the list of suitable hotels that they can ring. The parent then begins the long process of ringing Dublin hotels, then hotels further afield until once again they make a reluctant booking in our hotel and then begin to arrange transport.
I have seen this happen to my fellow citizens, to families with young children, day in and day out, throughout 2017. Our hotel has accommodated families for up to 3 to five days in a row.
Each day the same process, each day the same humiliation, each day the same struggle.
I don’t know what else I can say about this except it makes all of us at the hotel ashamed that this is the Ireland we live in.
Glendalough is a place of inspiration, tranquillity and a reminder of the historic achievements of Ireland’s ancient past.
Sadly it is now a part of the story of modern Irelands shameful present.
Since you took office in June Minister, the number of Homeless families has increased. The number of Homeless children has increased. The number of hotel rooms being used to accommodate homeless citizens has increased.
Working with Barry and Anne, we in Fianna Fáil have proposed several solutions, we have been responsible to allow Government to implement solutions but still – today – there are families without homes forced to endure disgraceful treatment that makes me and indeed I think every Irish citizen deeply ashamed.