DUBLIN City Council has called on Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy to immediately remove Conor Skehan as chair of the Housing Agency.
Mr Skehan – who has said he is keen to move on from the unpaid role he has held since 2013 – sparked a controversy when he said there was evidence homeless people are “gaming the system” to secure housing.
But despite the comments and the ensuing public outcry, Minister Murphy last week reappointed him to the position, claiming he could not find another suitable candidate.
At Monday’s council meeting, Sinn Fein put forward a motion calling for Mr Skehan to be removed.
The motion stated: “We believe his recent comments on homelessness and the downplaying of the housing crisis make him wholly unsuitable for the job.”
Chairman of the council’s housing committee, Cllr Daithi Doolan (SF), said Mr Skehan had “disqualified himself” by his recent comments on homelessness.
He said the remarks were part of a “culture of victim-blaming” and the problem of homelessness was because of a lack of new builds with demand far outstripping supply.
The Sinn Fein motion was carried by 28 votes in favour with 20 against and four abstentions – with a number of councillors speaking in support of Mr Skehan.
Cllr Ruairi McGinley (Ind) said he knew of some families who had to wait 15 years on a housing list, but only two years on a homeless list, and that “desperate people make desperate decisions”.
Cllr Anne Feeney (FG) said the motion was “outrageous”, while Cllr Dermot Lacey (Lab) said it was “important that public officials are free to speak their mind”.
Meanwhile, Dublin City Council has pledged that new accommodation will be found for 14 families who have to leave the Gresham Hotel on O’Connell Street.
DCC deputy chief executive Brendan Kenny told Monday’s meeting he is “very confident” that suitable alternative accommodation would be found for all 14 families before their leave date at the end of January.
Responding to criticism from councillors, he said the council has provided more than twice its target for homes for those on the housing list – 8,285 since 2015 compared with a projected 3,347 units.