Tough-talking | 

Dublin council boss says groups that provide tents to homeless are ‘virtue signallers’

‘The council does not support the provision of homeless services on street and we disagree fundamentally with those groups’

Neil FetherstonhaughSunday World

Dublin City Council chief executive Owen Keegan has described some groups that provide tents to homeless people as “merely virtue signallers, who continue to promote and sustain rough sleeping”.

The tough-talking city boss, who is set to step down from the helm of the State’s largest local authority in 10 months’ time, took issue with the provision of homeless services on the street, who, he said, they disagree fundamentally with.

Asked about what appears to be a reduction in the number of tents on the streets, indicating a possible success in dealing with the issue, he told The Irish Times this was down to the council’s “proactive policy of removal”.

Those providing tents were not meeting the needs of homeless people and some were “merely virtue signallers”, he added.

“The council does not support the provision of homeless services on street and we disagree fundamentally with those groups – some well-intended some merely virtue signallers – who continue to promote and sustain rough sleeping,” he said.

The Times reports that while the number of people in homeless accommodation in Dublin continues to rise, the number of rough sleepers is relatively stable, with figures released the week before Christmas showing a 3 per cent decrease, down to 91, in the annual count of people sleeping on the city streets. Just one quarter of these were using tents.

“The supply of emergency accommodation on most nights has exceeded demand, and accommodation is available to all in need of emergency accommodation,” Keegan replied.

“In these circumstances, where emergency accommodation is available, the city council has no hesitation in removing tents while working intensively with the tent occupants to ensure they avail of that emergency accommodation.”

The council staff work closely with homeless agencies and An Garda Síochána “to keep control on tent numbers”, he pointed out.

“The city council is determined to ensure that Dublin does not follow the example of other cities that have significant tented accommodation for homeless persons.”

Dublin does not want to turn into “downtown San Francisco”, he insisted.

The Times points out that Keegan, whose contract as chief executive expires at the end of September 2023, has previously caused controversy in regard to the city’s housing and homelessness crises.

In early 2019, he said the quality of Dublin’s homeless accommodation made it an “attractive option” for some people, who might not want to leave.

In August 2021, he criticised those who provide tents to homeless people as it encouraged rough sleeping and the “proliferation” of tents added to perception the city was unsafe.

Later that same year, after students complained to him about the high cost of purpose-built student housing he suggested they build their own.


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