The Irish government is showing “a Dickensian attitude” to homelessness, charges Fr Peter McVerry in this interview with Pat Coyle of Irish Jesuit Communications. They are blaming homeless people themselves for being in the state they are in, just as the Victorians blamed the poor for being poor. “The reality,” he adds, “is that homelessness is primarily caused by a failure of government policy rather than by any moral or other defect in the homeless persons themselves.”
Fr McVerry says he has had grave reservations all along about the current government’s attitude to homelessness, but with the kind of self-exculpating language they have now come to use he has “even less confidence that this government is going to address the problem of homelessness in any serious way”. He accuses them, particularly An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, of “downplaying the crisis of homelessness by comparing it inaccurately with other countries”. The report that Mr Varadkar has used for these comparisons explicitly states that it cannot be used for inter-country comparisons as different countries count homeless people in different ways.
Noting the recent statements by Mr Varadkar, Conor Skehan (Chair of the Housing Agency), and Eileen Gleeson (Director of Dublin Region Homeless Executive), all adopting a language about homelessness that shifts the blame away from public officials or bodies, Fr McVerry calls it a “welcome coincidence” as it has now “highlighted the issue in a way that hasn’t been highlighted before. It highlights the government’s attitude and the response of the authorities towards the problem of homelessness. It is coming in for severe criticism from the public, so I think it has had a positive impact.”
Listen to the full interview above.