In Dáil Éireann during Leaders’ Questions on Thursday, 8th December, I raised the issues of Homelessness with Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Simon Coveney. With many families and individuals living only one crisis away from homelessness this is an issue which affects all areas of our society.
Those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness are some of the most exposed and vulnerable members of our society. We need to act decisiveness and with urgency to tackle the ‘perfect storm’ that has arisen and which is leading to a catastrophic increase in the incidence of homelessness.
Full Transcript of Deputy Michael Lowry Question to Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Simon Coveney T.D. Thursday, 8 December 2016 on Homelessness and Housing
Michael Lowry T.D. (Tipperary, Independent)
I afford the Minister the opportunity to give his own assessment of progress made in the housing of homeless people and the supply of housing. He will be aware that Focus Ireland recently estimated that 20 families each month were becoming homeless. Owing to the current housing crisis, it is estimated that approximately 40 children every month are losing their homes. This is on top of the 2,500 children and 4,377 adults already officially recorded as homeless in October 2016.
Since 2010 it has become apparent that there has been a drastic increase in persons accessing homeless services. This is not just in the cities and towns where it gets attention; it is a problem across the State. For example, in County Tipperary a total of 25 persons presented as homeless in 2010.That figure has increased dramatically to 426 persons in 2015 and to more than 500 in 2016. Like other parts of the State, County Tipperary is facing a serious housing crisis. The lack of affordable rented accommodation, the lack of social housing, unemployment, unrealistic rent allowance limits, unsustainable mortgage payments and evictions from owner occupied and buy-to-let properties have created a situation where the frequency of individuals and families becoming homeless has accelerated drastically, resulting in homeless services becoming completely overwhelmed.
Many families and individuals are living only one crisis away from homelessness. Homelessness is a problem that affects all areas of our society. Across County Tipperary homelessness is on the increase, especially hidden homelessness, where people are forced to sleep in cars, pitch a tent or sleep on the couches of relatives and friends. My constituency office has seen a notable increase in the number of calls relating to homelessness or from families in fear of homelessness. Many of these people are on the county council housing list. They are being asked to leave their current accommodation due to repossession or they are being asked to leave because a buy-to-let property is getting repossessed by a financial institution or because their landlord has decided to sell the property. These people simply cannot source an affordable alternative and are living in limbo, fearing homelessness.
The introduction of schemes such as the housing assistance payment scheme, HAP, was designed to provide assistance to people currently on the social housing list to rent from the private sector. While the HAP scheme will pay a proportion of a person’s rent in private rented accommodation the scheme just is not working. Private rented accommodation is extremely limited in supply. Yesterday I checked the Daft.ie website and there were only 70 properties available to privately rent across County Tipperary for people in that situation. Those properties that are available range in price from €480 for a one bedroom apartment in Carrick-On-Suir to more than €900 for a three bedroom family home in Thurles. Yesterday, in Clonmel, there were three such properties available when the council checked. People cannot access the HAP scheme.
Minister Simon Coveney (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
There are a lot of comments and questions there. I first want to give a little bit of good news. We have a lot of work still to do to respond comprehensively to the homeless crisis we face in this city and in other parts of the State. Today we have the November figures on homelessness in Dublin and for the first time in a very long time the number of adults and families who are homeless in Dublin has actually reduced, month on month. That is not to say that we do not still have a mountain to climb – we do. We still have far too many people without a home to go to or a bed to sleep in. Yesterday the Taoiseach and I visited a new homeless shelter that will open tomorrow. Three of these will be ready to open tomorrow providing 210 new beds for emergency accommodation in Dublin, to make sure that everybody who needs a bed will get one this winter. When we look at the numbers, we have provided more than 17,000 new social housing solutions this year. This is a record. There will be 2,700 housing solutions put in place for homeless individuals and families this year. That is 500 more than has ever been achieved before. The previous record was last year when the former Minister, Deputy Alan Kelly was very focused on this area.
There is a lot that we are doing. In the budget we increased the budget for housing by 50% for 2017, an increase from some €800 million to nearly €1.3 billion. I believe we have outstripped all of the targets set for 2016 in actually trying to get people in to sustainable homes. With regard to the homeless HAP scheme in Dublin, the target for this year was 550 people. We will have probably hit the figure of 800 solutions there.
I fully accept that homelessness needs to be a big priority in finance and policy direction and we need to take radical decisions if necessary to try to prevent the stream of people and families coming in to homelessness.
Next week I will bring to Cabinet a new rental strategy which I hope we will have a chance to debate in the House afterwards. Many of the parties in the House contributed to the consultation process to get this right and I thank them for it.
There is a lot happening but there is still a lot more to do. I want to say to the House very clearly that from my perspective this is my number one priority as Minister. If the State cannot look after people who literally do not have a roof over their heads we have to ask ourselves some very serious questions. This is why in our homeless and housing strategy the first chapter, or pillar, focuses on homelessness and the need for a comprehensive response, whereby Ministers, such as Deputies Zappone, Harris and Varadkar, work in partnership with me to ensure we have a whole-of-Government approach towards not only helping people make the transition from homelessness into a stable home, but also to try to help them get over what are often mental health, addiction or family breakdown issues to ensure a permanent success story for them.
Michael Lowry T.D. (Tipperary, Independent)
I thank the Minister for his response and I do not doubt his sincerity and genuine commitment to resolving an issue which is at crisis point and has been steadily building over a period of seven to eight years. Local authorities need to be more involved. Some local authorities are performing and operating to the strategy, but others are not delivering. Housing voids, which are those which are vacant and need refurbishment, need to be made available for new tenants but it is simply too slow. The system is too cumbersome and the reaction time of local authorities is too slow.
It does not make sense. We have 3,000 qualified applicants on the housing list in Tipperary. We built four houses in the past two years, and I am told there is a huge backlog in the Department. Responsibility to proceed with the work should be delegated to local authorities. At present we have five different stages. Local authorities must apply to the Department for an appraisal to be carried out on the requirement for housing. They must then go through a design process and a tendering process. It takes years and not months to get it through the Department. It would greatly assist if responsibility was delegated to the local authorities. Let them make their own decisions. Let them apply procurement laws and let the Department assign somebody to do an assessment of them.
Minister Simon Coveney (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
I take the point in terms of streamlined decision-making and in some cases it may well still be a barrier. Yesterday, I approved €18 million for 56 houses to be built as part of the redevelopment of O’Devaney Gardens in Dublin. This year we will see 4,240 new units in terms of new builds, acquisitions and voids coming back into the system. Do not forget that last year the number of houses built by local authorities in the entire country was 75. We are dramatically ramping up the capacity of local authorities to deliver on social housing build programmes as well as getting voids back into use.
The Deputy is right to stay in the past the decision-making process between the Department and local authorities was not fast enough. There was an eight stage process. When Deputy Kelly was Minister he changed it to a four stage process. I am streamlining this even further to ensure we send teams of people to local authorities to get sign-off in a matter of days on decisions which in the past may have taken months. The Deputy will see significant changes in urgency and the pace of decision-making between the Department and local authorities if he looks at individual projects and the decision-making around them. If this is not happening and the Deputy knows this and has cases where it is not happening, I need to hear about them.
Deputy Michael Lowry welcomes the inclusion of the Rural Practice Allowance for the GP vacancy in Bansha.
As predicted for the past week the HSE have finally announced that the Rural Practice Financial Incentive Support package has been agreed in respect of the GP vacancy in Bansha. This package will allow for the position to be re-advertised and I am confident it will now attract a number of applications. The Action Committee lead by Andrew O’Halloran and the local community are to be complimented on taking the incentive to highlighting the issue. Through their resilience and determination they have succeeded in receiving a positive outcome. The Action Committee will meet with next week with officials from the HSE to discuss the implementation of the welcomed decision.
Tipperary Battle of the Bands 2015
Start your Christmas with an incredible night of live music
Haven, Minus One, Small Fish, Strings and Things and The Drive, will be battling it out for the winning prize of a 3-day professional recording opportunity and support slot performance in The Academy, Dublin. Our MC for the night’s event is the well-known model, DJ and TV3 Xposé presenter Michelle Doherty.
The Tipperary Battle of the Bands will be held in the ICON nightclub and the first band will take to the stage at 9pm, with drink promotions and music ‘til late. People attending the competition have the opportunity to win a variety of concert tickets as well as supporting their favourite bands by voting for them on the night. Cost at the door will be €10.
This will be the ultimate night of live music over the Christmas Season.
Why not follow the Finalists on Facebook:
For further information please contact:
Rachel Willoughby Communication Consultant at 086 8106690 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Sinead Gleeson Production Manager at 087 7042884 or email@example.com
CALLING ALL BANDS! WE WANT YOU! Tipperary Battle of the Bands 2015/2016
On Monday, 21st December 2015, the ultimate Tipperary Battle of the Bands will commence in
Hayes Hotel, Thurles Co. Tipperary.
Being 25 years since Ireland’s ground-breaking music festival ‘The Trip to Tipp’, Michael Lowry T.D. has once again joined forces to launch the ultimate Tipperary Battle of the Band competition . Aimed at supporting and promoting local talent, this initiative will be the biggest Battle of the Bands contest in the county to showcase up-and-coming Tipperary talent.
The winning band will receive a 3-day professional recording opportunity, a support slot performance in The Academy and runner-up prizes will include valuable instrument vouchers. People attending the competition have the opportunity to win a huge selection of concert tickets as well as supporting their favourite band by voting for them on the night.
Entries are NOW OPEN for Tipperary Battle of the Bands and the closing date for applicants is Wednesday, 9th of December at 5pm. Apply now: ENTRY FORM
As part of entry requirements, all members of the band must be aged 18 or over. At least 2 members of each band must be from County Tipperary and the band must submit a performance of 1 original song and 1 cover song. Entries will be narrowed down by an independent judging panel of music experts.
For further information please contact
Rachel Willoughby-Communication Consultant at (086) 810 6690 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Sinead Gleeson-Production Manager at (087) 704 2884 or email@example.com
Apply now: ENTRY FORM
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Lowry demands better HSE viability for GP care Rural Ireland health care under attack
Deputy Michael Lowry has called for immediate action in relation to the current Bansha GP crisis. With the current General Practitioner retiring, the position to fill this post has been advertised; however, with the closing date for applications fast approaching, no interest in securing this position has, as yet, been registered.
“In the past a ‘Rural Practice Allowance’, was paid to assist Doctors with essential operating costs. This allowance is no longer being offered to replacement physicians. The withdrawal of this ‘Rural Practice Allowance’ to such areas automatically deprives patients the right to attract doctors into rural communities; making GP practices no longer viable.
Medical General Practices are dying nationally but in particular the area of County Tipperary. Post after post in the Irish countryside are falling vacant, with no incentive to attract health professionals, many of whom have left this country in favour of superior opportunities abroad.
This most recent issue further highlights the challenges that rural dwellers face on a day-to-day bases. The village of Bansha and its surrounding areas is yet another example of how rural Ireland is constantly under attack. In recent months, Bansha has lost most of its transport services involving the transfer of very ill individuals to hospitals for treatment or appointments. Having lost the services of their local post office, they now also face the genuine possibility that they will lose the most basic of human rights; that of any local health care.
Bansha’s heath care centre currently provides professional quality service to the local community, together with parts of Cahir, Golden and the Glen of Aherlow. Presently between Medical Card holders & private patients, the local area takes care of over 2,000 individuals. With free GP care being rolled out nationally for under 6’s and over 70’s, it is ludicrous to think that those now eligible will find themselves in acute emergency cases where no doctor will be found in the village of Bansha.
I have been in contact with the Health Service Executive (HSE) and have requested that they immediately make a fully focused and determined effort to viably attract a GP to fill this rural position” concluded Michael Lowry.
“Following repeated requests from Tipperary Dairy Farmers I am calling on Minister Simon Coveney and the Department of Agriculture Food and Marine, to process applicants to the various TAMS II Schemes without further delay stated Deputy Michael Lowry.
These delays have caused unparalleled stress and anxiety for the Farmers in question. It is ludicrous to suggest Farmers should have to wait until first approvals to go out in January for the TAMS II Scheme. All applications for TAMS II are made under a tranche-based approach the first Tranche of the Young Farmer Capital Investment Scheme closed seven weeks ago and the first Tranche of the Dairy Equipment Scheme closed over three weeks ago. Minister Coveney surely understands that these cows and Heifers are already in Calf at the moment and they will Calf when they are ready and not when the Minister dictates.
In addition, to the obvious time constraints to complete necessary storage and housing work there is also a clear animal welfare issue here while Farmers are waiting for approval. I am calling on the Minister of Agriculture Food and the Marine to process these applications without delay and give urgently authorisation to all the TAMS II Schemes applications.
This issue is extremely frustrating for dairy farmers who must carry out work while herds are dried off and this must be resolved without delay concluded Deputy Lowry.”
Deputy Michael Lowry welcome the inclusion of 3 Tipperary Communities in the Eir FibrePower Competition
Deputy Michael Lowry welcome the inclusion of 3 Tipperary Communities in the Eir FibrePower Competition which will see one community in rural Ireland receive high speed broadband infrastructure provided by Eir Wholesale.
Recently I called on Communities within Tipperary to enter the Eir FibrePower competition and let Eir build a high speed Fibre to the Home (FTTH) broadband network within your community at no cost to you or your community. I am delighted to see 3 Tipperary Communities have entered.
See linked below each Tipperary entry:
Best wishes to everyone and the winner will be announced towards the end of November 2015.
See: Eir Community Competition for more information.
Michael Lowry demands action on the future of the Lisheen Mine.
“Time to lift the prevailing veil of secrecy.”
“Following repeated requests for openness on the future plans for Lisheen Mine, the official response has been one of continuous drawn out silence,” stated Michael Lowry TD.
“In 2012, I sent a written letter to Taoiseach Enda Kenny requesting state intervention and to this end a ‘Task Force’ was set up to assist in identifying alternative sources of employment. To date this Task Force has remained silent in relation to details of any future developments which may be pending. In November 2014, I again raised this issue in the Dáil, stressing the extreme gravity of this situation and the need for immediate and pressing action.
“The closure of the Lisheen Mine, first established in1997, has been one of the most important sources of employment here in Co. Tipperary in recent years. However despite my repeated appeals for immediate action, this same industry will soon contribute to the long term detrimental effect of the local economy,” continued the Deputy.
“The negative effects, which will be felt by both Tipperary and indeed the greater national economy can be forecasted as follows”, stated Lowry :-
- Unemployment for a workforce of 380 people; amounting to some €28 million in wages and salaries lost annually, much of which is spent in the local economy.
- The immediate loss, by supportive local service industries, particularly in the areas of transport, fuel, tyres, general hardware, etc.; with an estimated loss expected to be in the order of some €14 million.
- Lisheen Mine has also been a major source of support and funding to local clubs, amenities and charities.
- A large well-appointed and resourced site, for the foreseeable future, will be left to lie, for the most part, redundant.
“This massive imminent loss to Co. Tipperary continues to be placed on the long finger. Despite Lisheen Mine Management having regularly informed their workforce regarding the dwindling reserves and future limited employment prospects at the mine; the mine site has huge potential for future investment.
With major access via Rail and Motorway nearby, this 1200 acre site is ideally suited to big industry. An existing powerful 38 kV electricity supply is one of the biggest in the country and with on site extensive modern offices and outbuildings, this site is ready for immediate occupation.” stated Lowry.
“This site boasts a massive underground aquifer capable of supplying millions of gallons of water daily, but most importantly, Lisheen has an adaptable, highly committed workforce with an impeccable industrial relations record. Surely the whole package would not be too difficult to sell to a major investor!” continued the Deputy.
“Lisheen Mine has huge future potential for investment, yet Tipperary and its surrounding rural areas are now destined to slide backwards into a period of prolonged and totally unnecessary economic uncertainty. With the rural economy continuing to decline, I now call upon the Task Force to report direct to Tipperary County Council membership and all elected membership for the county, so that established facts can be assembled and debated.
I have formally requested the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Mr Richard Bruton, to acknowledge the full consequences of this imminent closure and to ensure that State Agencies come forward to play a real meaningful role in directing alternative industry to the site.
The local community have heard of promised replacement projects and jobs creation. They have heard of ‘sensitive discussions’, however the reality is that truly nothing tangible has materialised.
This issue must appear from behind its current veil of secrecy,” concluded Michael Lowry.
Michael Lowry TD condemns the chaos & heartbreak caused by Bank Repossessions
Following a review undertaken by Deputy Michael Lowry TD; he is now aware that appearing before the Court in Nenagh on Thursday last, financial institutions sought 86 applications for home repossessions, with similar figures being repeated in Clonmel and Nenagh every couple of months. The majority of these applications are causing intense anxiety, distress and disruption to Tipperary individuals and their families, who remain, firmly, the victims of a banking industry which has been permitted to run out of control.
This same banking industry was led by exorbitantly well-paid executives with all of the resources of economists, blue-chip accountancy firms, together with consultants, at their finger-tips. Despite this scenario, their corporate structure fully succeeded in detonating a massive, caustic explosion within the Irish economy, not just demoralising their customers but collapsing the very foundations of its own structures. Despite this financial catastrophe, the Irish Government and tax-payers combined to bail out these financial institutions at huge costs, thus saving them from their own avaricious negligence and wilful recklessness.
Deputy Michael Lowry now probes the question:
“What have the Irish people gained from these financial institutions, in return for their largesse and support?”
“While we are still caught in a difficult and dangerous situation and ‘on the hook’ for tens of billions, which these banks, through absolute avarice, have cost this country; we nevertheless still have these same arrogant bankers treating ordinary house-holders and their families with ruthless aggression. Do not be misled by Government propaganda; their Insolvency Service is just another quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisation; a quango if you will, with banks still allowed to hold a veto over all mortgage arrangements.
“Mortgage holders presently in financial difficulty are being treated in horrendous ways; terrorised out of their homes without any proper or real engagement; designed to restructure mortgages and achieve civilised and humanitarian solutions. On top of this, we have the disgraceful situation of huge regulatory fines being imposed on the parent banks of some institutions operating and advertising here in Ireland; arising from the fraudulent manipulation of interbank benchmark rates and foreign exchange markets.
“I am almost on a daily basis, being confronted with appalling instances of financial institutions being allowed to ignore their own wrong-doings and trample on Irish borrowers. I have been consulted by one parent, in the building sector, who in addition to his family home and with a view to helping pay for his children’s education, bought just one ‘buy-to-let’ house in 2006. With the collapse of the building industry, he still managed to find occasional work, but fell into arrears. These arrears which, at their very worst, rose to just €5,500, had by 2013, been reduced to €1,600. However his financial institution still appointed a Receiver, sold his house and pursued him through the Courts to reclaim the balance.
“Yet another vulnerable family were convinced by a Broker that he could get them a Mortgage in circumstances where they should never have been approved. He took a fee of €2,500 from them for his work; got them a mortgage which realistically could never be paid and they in return are now being hounded out of their home by their financial institution, which accepts no responsibility in the matter.”
These are just two examples from numerous similar situations.
“At present, borrowers are being held to account for their behaviour, however financial institutions are permitted to sail completely free of having to take any share of the responsibility for the chaos, distress and heart-break, which has resulted from this present financial crisis. Again, I state that this recent crisis has been caused primarily by these same financial institutions, who had all the ‘top-notch’ advice and who have spent the past year before the Banking Inquiry, unable to recall their actions and refusing profusely to take any responsibility for their totally dissolute actions.
I firmly believe that borrowers, particularly distressed home-owners, should get some respite. Why should thousands of individuals and whole families be put on local authority housing lists, simply because bankers went fanatical; wildly encouraging people to borrow 100% loans, most often knowingly aware of peoples inability to repay?
“I demand a new deal for distressed home-owners under which our banks and Vulture Funds, which bought many of their Loan Books, will immediately be forced to enter into the following arrangements with borrowers. In other words, where a borrower is committed to an agreed affordable repayment situation (initially for a trial period of say 2 years), same should be permitted to keep their homes, on the condition that they abide by same pre-agreed affordable repayment. Legislation to compel these arrangements should be a priority for any incoming Government.”
Michael Lowry General Election Campaign
I wish to invite interested people in South & North Tipperary, regardless of their experience, to help in my re-election campaign.
I am an experienced, Independent politician with a track record of committed service and delivery to individuals and community in North Tipperary. I would like to offer the people of South Tipperary the benefit of my extensive knowledge of Government, both locally and nationally. It is likely that in the next Government, solid, Independent T.D.s will have a much enhanced influence.
Over the years, I have built up a network of contacts in Business, Farming, the Health Service, the Social Welfare Service and many other areas of Irish life. This affords me the advantage of being able to efficiently solve the numerous problems which people refer to me daily.
I have built an excellent support base, parish by parish in North Tipperary. This has taken place over a long period and has been achieved without the structures and support which is available to established party candidates. In the short period before the election, I cannot possibly achieve the same support base in the South of the county without the help of people who see in me a candidate worthy of their support.
Your assistance will be greatly appreciated. If you are interested in helping me with my Election campaign, please phone 087 4329300 or email me on firstname.lastname@example.org