Cllr Joanna Byrne slams Louth County Council for not making Homelessness a priority

Sinn Féin Councillor Joanna Byrne has once again slammed Louth County Council for not taking the Homelessness situation in the County seriously enough.

Cllr Byrne was speaking at this month’s Council meeting and said “I want to express my deep dissatisfaction at the reporting of Homelessness from this local authority. We are sitting here looking at a Homelessness report that has not been updated since January. It has been just copied and pasted for the last two months.”

Councillors receive a monthly report giving statistics on the county situation but the report at this month’s meeting appeared to be the same as the January report.

Cllr Byrne then listed a number of what she seen as ‘failures’ on the issue of homelessness. Cllr Byrne said “This is at a time where we have had no Rough Sleeper Count done in the South of the County in 16 months, at a time where the Homelessness section of Louth County Council’s website which provides vital contact information for those who need it has been inaccessible for a month, at a time where the executive of this Council is defying the will of the members who are calling for additional homeless facilities to cater for those suffering with addictions.”

“I don’t know if this copy and paste effort is down to incompetence, laziness or blatant manipulation of the information being conveyed to the members, but regardless of which of the three, it is it is not acceptable.”

These claims were met with cries of dismay from the top table and Director of Services for Housing Paddy Donnelly replied stating he ‘took great exception’ to Cllr Byrne’s remarks. Cllr Byrne concluded in saying” There is no accountability here and in my opinion Homelessness needs to become more of a priority for this Local Authority and as a matter of urgency!”

These claims were met with cries of dismay from the top table and Director of Services for Housing Paddy Donnelly replied stating he ‘took great exception’ to Cllr Byrne’s remarks.

Cllr Byrne concluded in saying” There is no accountability here and in my opinion Homelessness needs to become more of a priority for this Local Authority and as a matter of urgency!”

Cllr Joanna Byrne Warns Council of Consequences of Placement Fees

At last week’s Municipal District of Drogheda’s monthly meeting, Sinn Féin Councillor Joanna Byrne firmly queried Director of Services for Housing as to whether Louth County Council had bought into the idea of offering placement fees to estate agents.

Cllr Byrne said “It emerged this week that some Local Authorities are offering estate agents €500 + Vat in ‘placement fees’ in return for them securing private rental accommodation for homeless families. I want to know firstly, are Louth County Council participating in this? And secondly, if there has been a direction from Minister Murphy to do the same?”

Cllr Byrne who is Chairperson of the Housing Strategic Policy Committee went on to voice her concerns that this would be a very bad move for the County.

“I understand that until social and affordable housing stock is increased dramatically in Louth it may seem that there is no alternative but to engage in these desperate negotiations but by God, it is plain to see this will distort the market even further. There is already an over-reliance by this Government, and in turn this Council, on the private rental sector and if that stock, in short supply as it is, is removed to facilitate backroom deals without the implementation of subsequent measures, the consequences will in turn lead to more and more families entering homelessness than the local authority will be able to manage!”

In response to Cllr Byrne’s concerns, Paddy Donnelly in his first meeting in the district in his new role as Director for Housing,  confirmed that Louth County Council are not currently participating in this scheme. Whilst stating that this may be a ‘viable option for some’, this then sparked serious concerns to Cllr Byrne that this may a route the Local Authority would consider in the future.

Mr. Donnelly alleviated these counter concerns by committing to the meeting that there are no plans for Louth County Council to engage in this process in the future.

Cllr Byrne has welcomed this outcome and vowed to monitor this going forward.

Louth faces environmental threats – Adams

Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams has called for urgent action from the government to “end the environmental and health threat that faces thousands of citizens in Louth at risk from the discharge of raw sewage and the non-compliance of EU regulations in the treatment of urban waste water”.

Teachta Adams said:

“The recently published Urban Waste Water Treatment in 2017 report by the Environmental Protection Agency makes depressing reading.

The government and Irish Water are failing to meet their commitments on investment in water treatment. 13 years after the final deadline to meet treatment standards there are still 28 towns and cities in this state, one of which is Omeath, discharging inadequately treated sewage. The EPA warned that this is “putting our health at risk and is having an impact on our rivers, lakes and coastal waters.” This amounts to raw sewage from the equivalent of 88,000 people in 38 towns and villages flowing into the environment.

According to the EPA report there are 132 urban areas where improvements are needed to resolve environmental priorities. Seven of these are in Louth at Ardee, Blackrock, Castlebellingham, Dundalk, Dunleer, Omeath and Tallanstown.

In addition, there are 28 large urban areas that have failed to meet the EU’s legally binding standards for the treatment of urban waste water. Ardee and Blackrock failed the secondary treatment requirements, while Dundalk failed the more stringent treatment requirements.

The EPA also identified 57 areas across the state where waste water discharges are the sole significant pressure on water bodies at risk of pollution and not meeting their environmental objectives. Five such areas are impacted in Louth. These are Inner Dundalk Bay, Gldye, Castletown Estuary, White at Dunleer and the Glyde at Tallanstown.

The fact is that the government’s short and long term strategies for providing a safe environment and clean water is failing to deliver for many citizens.

More resources are urgently needed to target those areas which are currently not meeting basic environmental standards.

Progress requires increased investment in and delivery of major capital infrastructure. There also needs to be a substantial improvement in how the existing treatment systems are managed and maintained. This is a government that must do better for the people of Louth and of the state.”
 

Budget 2019 fails Louth – Adams

Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams has described this week’s budget as a “missed opportunity by this Fine Gael/Fianna Fáil government to tackle the big issues, like housing and health, disabilities and respite services, and climate change which are impacting on citizens in all parts of this state at this time.”

Teachta Adams said:

“Louth has an estimated 20,000 citizens with a disability. Respite care for those living with a disability is a priority which this government has failed to address in the past and which it fails to mention in Budget 2019.

The small number of respite beds in Louth cannot meet the high demand for people with disabilities. It is not acceptable that respite services are ignored by the government in its budget. Citizens with disabilities and their carers have rights and the responsibility of the government must be to support those rights and to resource them.

In March of this year this state ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. It was a long overdue decision but it has not been matched by government investment to assist those with disabilities.

Budget 2019 fails to meet the needs of citizens with disabilities in health, in education and in housing. Only an additional four million euro has been provided for housing adaption work.

Sinn Féin called for a cross-Departmental and whole of government rights based and social approach to persons with disabilities. What we have got from this government is more of the same and that is not good enough.”

On the issue of housing Gerry Adams said:

“The claim by Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil that this is a housing budget does not stand up to scrutiny. Housing and homelessness is in crisis.  It required a priority response and significant additional resources by the government. Instead the proposals in the budget fail to tackle the huge social and affordable housing need which clearly exists in Louth and across this state.

When you cut through all of the hype only a miserable €120m additional has been allocated for capital investment in housing.

This means that less than 500 new social homes, in addition to what was already committed, will be provided bring the total for 2019 to less than 8,000 homes. This is far short of what is needed.

In a budget that provides more money for landlords the government is predictably pushing the responsibility for housing onto the private rental market. Almost 20,000 subsidised private rental tenancies will be used to meet social housing need. This is a short term strategy which provides no security for tenants and leaves them vulnerable to homelessness”.

Finally, commenting on the failure to seriously address the issue of climate change Teachta Adams said:

“The United Nations report on global warning has warned that the governments of the world have 12 years in which to avert a major climate catastrophe. The report warns that failure to act will see extreme weather conditions worsen, increase the risks to citizens, impact on the food supply and will damage the world’s economy.

To tackle this significant problem humanity has to reduce carbon emission and adopt renewable energy sources. The reality is that this government has failed on both counts and Budget 2019 is another missed opportunity.

As a result this state will not only miss its international obligations on carbon emissions but it will face fines of hundreds of millions of euro”.

Adams urges Louth support for Raise the Roof

Sinn Féin TD for Louth Gerry Adams has urged people from Louth to support the ‘Raise the Roof’ demonstration which will take place at Leinster House on 3rd October at 12.30pm.

Gerry Adams said;

“The Raise the Roof rally unites political parties, trade unions, student’s unions, housing agencies, community and campaign groups who share the same aim of demanding action from the Government on the housing crisis.

“In the past week we saw how Fianna Fáil TDs, including Declan Breathnach, sided with the Government and private developers against those in housing need.

“They failed to support the Sinn Féin motion of no confidence in Minister Eoghan Murphy, a Minister who has presided over unprecedented levels of homelessness and who consistently refuses to regulate the rental market.

“Sinn Féin will publish its alternative Budget on Tuesday 2nd October.  In it we have budgeted for a 3 year rent freeze and tax relief for of 8.3% per annum for renters for 3 years.  This amounts to one month’s rent back per year.

“In Louth the average rent price was €905 in 2017.  This year it has risen to €983 per month.  People in Louth are on a treadmill of working simply to fill the coffers of their landlord.

“Our proposals are fully costed.  Sinn Féin has the political will to deliver for people who are struggling, people currently locked out of the housing market.

“I will be joined at Raise the Roof by Dundalk councillors Ruairí Ó Murchú and Anne Campbell.”