On the same day that the Irish Times reports that Dublin City Council faces a six-year wait to start housing projects, the Minister for Children Roderick O’Gorman has announced a government commitment to asylum seekers that they will get the keys to their own accommodation after four months and will be able to work after six months.
As Dr Matt Treacy has already highlighted, the details of these proposals are outlined in a new White Paper on Direct Provision published today. The White Paper also reflects a commitment in the Programme for Government to end the current system of how we process and house asylum seekers and those seeking international protection.
The proposals, to put it mildly, are political dynamite that will have the majority of TDs and indeed Housing Officers in every Local Authority in the state bracing themselves for the fury that they will inevitably create.
And they will be right to worry.
Because this is an appalling policy no matter how you look at it.
From a ‘PR’ perspective it almost appears designed to needle and provoke as it gleefully, but in a tone-deaf kind of way, rubs the ‘righteousness’ of its approach into ordinary people’s faces.
It is almost as if they are challenging people to say, ‘go on, just open your mouth, bigot.’
This is not how you bring people with you, including those who might otherwise recognise the inequities of the current Direct Provision system.
From a political perspective this will prove an albatross around the neck of any TD who has his or her ear to the ground and who understands the plain reality; that no matter what John or Mary may say in public, they will still want their own children or grandchildren housed and homed before any asylum seeker who is only in the state a wet week.
How will the TD visited by a couple living in one of their parent’s box rooms with 2 kids justify this policy to them?
How will they explain to the young mother who is hiding her second pregnancy from the landlord that she must wait a few years more before she can be housed?
What will any of these people, like Roderick O’Gorman or Dr Catherine Day say to the broken and exhausted Irish families who have been crammed into totally unsuitable accommodation for the last number of years?
Will the mother worn down by arguments with her parents because the children are taking up too much space welcome the news today? Will the father who has had to live separately from his wife and children because there was not room enough for all of them in the only available accommodation welcome this?
Will the thousands who have essentially been forced off the housing lists into RAS accommodation and who are messed around by landlords will not repair as much as a window be happy?
No. But the NGOs will be happy. The ‘approved housing body’ who gets the contract to provide the housing will have hit the jackpot every day.
Roderick O’Gorman is not a stupid man. But if he really believes that Irish people’s “huge groundswell of solidarity for people in the current Direct Provision system” will somehow give him or this government a free pass on this then he is utterly deluded.
The ‘unpalatable reality’ is that support for the changes to Direct Provision which include housing asylum seekers in four months may be a mile wide, but it is only an inch deep.
And there is absolutely nothing wrong with this.
If this state is going to build houses and home people in four months then prioritisation should be accorded to Irish citizens, native or naturalised, and not those for the whom the very legitimacy of their asylum application may be suspect to begin with.
Let us help those in Direct Provision where we can. Indeed, we are helping where we can to the tune of €51 million up to last March.
But don’t pretend, with a kind of an unrelenting stupidity and political virtue signalling that it is anything like bigotry to want to see our own people housed first.