“In this awful priest ridden country they still managed to build good houses for working people…”

In an interview in today’s Sunday Business Post the writer Roddy Doyle discusses the homeless situation in Dublin:

It is the thing I feel ashamed of, more than anything, as a citizen. Somehow or other in the 1950’s and 1960’s, in this awful priest ridden country that we used to live in, they still managed to build good houses for working people, and there wasn’t a penny in the country. Now it seems beyond the means. We cannot supply housing to people who need it. It’s appalling.

The story goes on to say:

Around 7,000 people are homeless in Ireland. Close to 30% of those are children. Almost one in five homeless people are in employment.

In related news, the Inner City Helping the Homeless launches its #mynameis campaign to highlight the issue of homeless children. In one video clip we see David a 9-year-old boy with cerebral palsy struggle to climb the stairs of his B&B accommodation.

The issue is homelessness has been a national disgrace for years. A country that can’t house its own children has no moral core.

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  • the rich get richer

    The Eu is running the show now , and that Empire certainly ain’t worrying about the housing of Irish workers .

    The Politicians that have sold out the country to the Eu Empire ain’t worried about housing for Irish working people either .

    The Eu and the Irish Elite are now about cheap labour……it has become their raison d’être

  • Brian O’Neill

    It’s nothing to do with the EU. Even during the boom years there was an issue with homelessness.

  • the rich get richer

    In the 1950 ‘ and 1960’s Ireland before the R of Ireland joined the Eu managed to build good quality houses for working people .

    The raison d’être of the Eu and their fellow travellers ( the elites in european countries ) is to produce as much cheap labour as possible…..

    Providing decent housing for people who because of cheap labour policies cannot buy ( or afford to rent ) their own property would cost money . The Eu is not interested in this ,

    The Eu is great for claiming the good stuff but goes missing when the bad stuff is discussed .

  • ted hagan

    What on earth are you talking about? It’s about various Dublin governments over recent decades failing to be build enough social housing,failing to deal with epidemics of house price inflation, soaring rents (minimum 1200 euro in Dublin) in the private sector and promoting crazy lending by the banks..

  • JohnTheOptimist

    Every country has a homelessness problem. Can you name one that hasn’t? The key issue is the homelessness rate. Can you give any reliable statistics indicating that the homelessness rate in Ireland is worse than in other EU countries? I can’t find any that indicate that but am happy to examine any refrenced by others that do. Certainly, the figures for N. Ireland given in this link seem higher.


    My own reading of the stats is that:

    (a) Up to a few years ago the number of homeless in Ireland was consistently circa 5,000 at any one time, around 1.1 per 1,000 population. This was certainly one of the lowest homelessness rates in the EU. Remember that back then most economists were attacking the FF government for building too many houses (e.g. George Lee, Morgan Kelly).

    (b) Since FG took office it has worsened to 8,000 currently, 1.7 per 1,000 population.

    (c) One of the factors is the massive overestimation of emigration and underestimation of population growth, as revealed in the 2016 census. On the back of wildly pessimistic predictions for economic and population growth, the number of new houses built annually was allowed to fall far too much. indeed a few years ago Morgan Kelly was claiming the outlook for population growth in Ireland was so dire that tens of thousands of houses should be knocked down. It looks like Ireland’s population could increase by around 60,000 this year, something that the country’s politicians and economists totally failed to predict, so addicted were they to the discredited theory that the Irish economy was screwed for a generation

    (d) Since the recession ended the number of new houses built annually has increased sharply. This year it may hit close to 20,000. This is about 50% higher than the rate of new house-building in Britain, but not enough to keep up with skyrocketing population growth.

    As for Roddy Doyle – he exemplifies why the anti-nationalist left in Ireland has never made the slightest inroads.

  • the rich get richer

    Dublin governments do what the Eu instructs .

    Brexit has proven conclusively that you cannot be an independent country and in the Eu .

    The Eu’s great trick is to claim all success and go missing for the failures…….slippery….

  • Georgie Best

    Change the record. This has nothing to do with the EU whatsoever.

  • Old Mortality

    How is homelessness defined? Does it include people who are seeking larger to better accommodation for various reasons? Given the frenetic rate of housebuilding of a decade ago, I’d be surprised if there was a significant shortage outside Dublin. If 80% of Dublin’s homeless are unemployed, could they not be asked to move to where housing is readily available

  • Paddy Reilly

    Yes, that’s about right.

    Ireland is a nation of builders, simple, honest, construction folk. Consequently an outbreak of homelessness in Ireland is like a shortage of sand in the Sahara desert.

    What this possibly could have to do with the Catholic Church or the EU I cannot think. Obviously with the US even excelling Ireland on homelessness, it is nothing of European invention.

    I once asked someone who had been in a cold snap night shelter what proportion of the homeless were mentally ill: he said 90% but if you count alcoholism and drug addiction as mental diseases, 100%.

    The night shelter, he said, provided relief from the snow, but you couldn’t get any sleep there: in a shared dormitory there were so many dangerous loonies that even dangerous loonies wouldn’t risk going to sleep.

    If all homelessness is in Dublin and the homeless are all unemployed, then deporting them to the country seems like a good idea. Sounds to me like the gardaí could put an end to it in a week.

  • Korhomme

    Didn’t this all begin with Thatcherism/Reaganonomics? The idea that the ‘market’ would provide, and that the state should retreat? Markets aren’t altruistic or interested in social policy; their only interest is profit.

  • Nevin
  • Brendan Heading

    Somehow or other in the 1950’s and 1960’s, in this awful priest ridden country that we used to live in, they still managed to build good houses for working people, and there wasn’t a penny in the country

    Hmm, I wonder if we’re getting a bit nostalgic here. Relatives of mine lived in Dublin around this era and recall large families crammed into one or two rooms in the now-fashionable Georgian terraces in the inner city.

  • Brendan Heading

    Dublin governments do what the Eu instructs .

    Nah. The UK and the USA have similar problems. A large private sector housing market and an economy with a significant component based around inflated property prices.

    The problem for the Irish government, and the UK government, is that if they build a ton of houses, property values will collapse and large numbers of mortgages will be impaired. The same thing will happen if they try to regulate the letting market and enforce rent controls.

  • Salmondnet

    People who comment on this blog often praise modern Ireland’s liberal ethos. Difficult to square this with police enforced internal exile.
    Perhaps though, in Ireland, as in England, the issue of raised expectations is also a major factor? In the UK fewer (non-immigrant) young people are willing to live in bedsits or flat share as they once did. That puts up the demand for “affordable” housing which in turn reduces its affordability.

  • the rich get richer

    Before Ireland was run the Eu it built houses for working people .

    After Ireland was run by the Eu it stopped building houses for working people .

  • Paddy Reilly

    Police enforced internal exile? Sounds a bit like the ASBO to me.

    I don’t buy into any so-called liberal ethos which causes homelessness and drug-dependency. It sounds to me more like don’t-careism. I won’t be boasting, look what a rich modern country Ireland is, we have homeless panhandlers and druggies, just like New York. As Doyle said, the old way was better.

    Another case of the problem is the planning law ethos, which prevents the building of houses where they are needed and thus pushes the price of existing stock up beyond what can be afforded. Ireland has inherited this sickness from London, not Europe or Rome.

    I don’t remember seeing any homelessness in Berlin when I was there. Nor did I notice Inner City Decay.

  • Mark Loughran

    The answer would be to tax a little more and spend the proceeds on building good quality social housing, built either directly by councils or by giving the money to housing associations. It is not complicated, it is a political choice. What seems to be obvious is that by-and-large voters would appear not to want to do this, or at least not care enough about the issue to make much of a fuss. What that says about the moral compass of Irish society, well I think that’s what Roddy Doyle is getting at.

  • Aarrnn

    This is really sad. Does David have any parents? What can we do to change the situation and help this kid rather than point fingers?

  • Paddy Reilly

    This is the fallacy “Post hoc ergo propter hoc”. You might as well blame the EU for Punk Rock music.

  • JohnTheOptimist
  • NewSouthernMan

    O please. I’m 100% sure Roddy Doyle uses the Artist’s tax exemption to avoid paying any income tax yet he feels perfectly entitled to lecture the rest of us taxpayers on how we are failing the children of Ireland.

    Is there a Roddy Doyle Charity for the Homeless? I don’t think so.

    Why do we give these people oxygen?

    And let’s drop the artist’s tax exemption – Doyle should pay tax like the rest of us.

  • Brian O’Neill

    The artists tax exemption has a cap of 50K http://www.citizensinformation.ie/en/money_and_tax/tax/income_tax/artists_exemption_from_income_tax.html

    And just because you are successful means you should not have a social conscience?

  • Brian O’Neill

    You are right but I assume he is talking about the large social housing estates that were built to alleviate the old crowded inner city tenements.

  • Brian O’Neill

    You are right that this can be an issue for any large city. My beef is that this has been going on for decades. There are over 20k empty houses in Dublin. It does not seem like it would be that difficult to pass some laws to make use of these properties: https://www.irishtimes.com/news/social-affairs/over-20-000-homes-in-dublin-are-vacant-1.2909055

    I know they have been trying to do this but the wheels of government move very slowly when it comes to homelessness.

  • NewSouthernMan

    €50k cap means that is €50k less in taxes he pays than me. As Trump would say, SAD!

    Paying less tax than me certainly doesn’t give him permission to lecture the rest of us non-celebrity, full-tax-paying, plain people of Ireland.

    My point is, who the f*** is Roddy Doyle? Why does he get to lecture us about homelessness? When did we exchange priests for celebrities? Why does anything he say deserve one second of our day?

    I’m just waiting for Bono and that Sir guy in the UK to add their two cents. As I said: please (stop).

  • Paddy Reilly

    I was there in 2010 I think. I saw no homeless people at all. No-one asked me for money Perhaps they have appeared in the last 7 years or maybe this article is overly sensationalist: I do not trust its tone.

    You will appreciate I was not there looking for them. As it was December they may have moved elsewhere for the winter. I only met people complaining that there was insufficient snow to ski.

  • murdockp

    10 years ago the press covered ghost estates and their demolition.

    Now it is a shortage of housing.

    The truth is expectations of the political elite, middle class construction professionals nad the famikies who want clean safe affordable housing are not alligned.

    The industry is now being tasked with building expensive sustainable houses that are far greater specification the the people who need housing require.

    This results in less housing for your buck.

    The state need ago come up with a few standardised house designs and mass production of housing components for these housing such as timber frames bricks and insulation.

    A requirement for Planning permission for any housing within 3 miles of a town or city centre needs to be removed if the housing is to be provided for Irish nationals with 10 years residency so carpet bagged cannot benefit with very tight rules to stop speculative flipping

    Radical thought is needed on this issue.

  • murdockp

    Freedom of movement is also a massive issue given Ireland not only has to house it’s own people but our foreign workforce.

    Being a.member of the EU comes with obligations to nationals from other member states.

  • murdockp

    He gets to lecture us because our self serving politicians who we elect are ignoring the needs of our people.

    Histor shows nothing gets a ministers cheque book out faster than wingeing celebrity.

    Our own Bob Geldof was the master.

    If the likes of how Duffy and even sports people like Seamus Colman, Roy Keane, Katie Taylor and conor mcgregor speak, people do listen.

  • murdockp

    I don’t agree Ireland embraced the EU and globalisation. To achieve economic growth you need a workforce. We certainly did that and the freedom of movement of Labour delivered this for us from other EU states.

    The problem is instead of investing in infrastructure including housing we invested (sarcasim) in 50bn of saddled EU debt.

    We do need to start investing. The economy is strong now and there is no reason no to. The 13bn of Apple tax money will build a lot of houses.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    As he mentioned priests, surely it’s safe to assume that back then in the time of greater church influence and the subsequent bigger congregation sizes and sense of community that this would also serve as a cushion against homelessness?

  • JohnTheOptimist

    A report by Goodbody, published a couple of months ago, showed that the number of empty houses is about half what was previously thought.


    The population of Ireland has risen by over a million in 20 years, by far the highest rate of population growth in the EU. Under FF house-building kept pace with that population growth. Its absurd for some (not you) to claim that not enough was put into house-building during Celtic Tiger 1. The complaint of economists like George Lee and Morgan Kelly was that far too much was put into house-building. Averaged over the past 20 years, Ireland’s new house-building rate is about 3/4 times that of Britain. Since Celtic Tiger 2 started (2013/14) population growth has again surged – but so far FG have not been as successful as FF were at revving up house-building to match that growth. The only solution is to build, build, build, as was done by FF between 1997 and 2009, not confiscation of empty homes because (a) its probably unconstitutional (b) as stated above, the number is far less than previously thought.

  • murdockp

    Yes, cuba

  • Roger

    Don’t know much about Mr. Doyle and don’t really mean to get at him personally, but I wonder if he has to pay much tax. Artist’s exemption and all.

    Wouldn’t agree with you though. What’s obvious to me is that tax is already too high.

  • Roger

    Yip. Bag the money you told a corporation you wouldn’t bag. I’m sure there will be no downsides to that…

    No brainer really.

  • Roger

    Yea; private property…what’s that all about Comrade.

    So what if they paid for it and pay their taxes on it too.

  • Roger

    I will admit to knowing little about it, bar what I’ve gathered anecdotally. That’s that it’s now so expensive to build owing to all the requirements that it’s pricing many out of the market.

  • Roger

    Crazy lending….have you tried to get a loan recently?
    Crazy lack of lending more likely.

  • Eileen Dooley

    We are in a global housing bubble, managed by central bank, to keep house prices high and drive them higher. It is the same story throughout the world. Neo liberalism engineers homelessness as part of its economic model.

  • the rich get richer

    In this Eu ridden country the quisling and treacherous politicians will not build houses for their own working people .

    But the quisling and treacherous politicians do ALL the bidding of their Eu Masters……

  • epg_ie

    We were able to house people when we were skilled at very little else as a country. Construction was very cheap when there was little demand for Irish labour or Irish urban land. The emigration of 1 in 3 or 4 young people in the 1950s reduced housing demand. As for state housing, the Irish government had little other call on its resources because those “awful” priests and nuns provided the country’s health, education and social welfare, which nowadays comprise 75% of government service spending, as well as much of the sheltered housing.

  • epg_ie

    Come on, FF encouraged developers with tax reliefs to build many / most of those dwellings in small western towns and marginal Dublin commuter towns (marginal both electorally and geographically). That’s like sating thirst by pouring salt water. It’s why you can get houses in those areas for €100k while young people stand in queues in areas with actual demand.

  • murdockp

    Our EU masters have decreed we should bag it.

  • Roger

    Suspect Dublin homeless would mostly be delighted with a Cabra / Crumlin style house…

  • epg_ie

    Maybe not in an entirely economically-dependent estate 15km from Dublin city centre. If a house were just a house, everyone could move to Connacht, but the majority of homeless people are looking for a home in Dublin and the vast majority are in cities. Anyway, it was absolutely not the case that long-term unemployed or jobless single mothers would have been accommodated as a matter of priority in the good old days. The outcomes were emigration and the Magdalenes, respectively. Roddy Doyle’s talking about vast estates of tenant-purchase houses, a kind of middle-class welfare which is now instead provided via the health, education and social protection spend.

  • Georgie Best

    Indeed, the likes of Crumlin was built exactly to move people from such tenements although of course not everyone moved at once. Brendan Behan writes about his move to Crumlin from the inner city.

    There is a genuine point here, the Irish State did manage good work in those periods in housing and the social consensus favoured investment in those things. The Irish state failed more by not paying attention to the productive side of the economy, which it began to do after Whittaker.

  • Roger

    Yip. We did call then Dublin homeless. Not Connacht homeless.

  • MalikHills

    “Somehow or other in the 1950’s and 1960’s, in this awful priest ridden
    country that we used to live in, they still managed to build good houses
    for working people”

    As a Dubliner friend of mine might put it, “they did in me shoite!”

    The Irish state built a few modern estates, it was the least they could do given the squalor of the tenements in Dublin and Limerick, to house some of the urban poor. But millions of Irish working class people were never housed by the Irish state, they emigrated to England to be housed by the UK state, or to America to take their chances.

    Let’s not get misty-eyed here folks.

  • Brendan Heading

    I lived for a time on Clogher Road which is on the edge of Crumlin (just discovering now I was a five minute walk from Behan’s old house!). I thought those old Corpo terraces dated to the 30s.

  • Cushy Glen

    The priests gave single mothers lovely homes in the good old days.

  • Hugh Davison

    It’s ideology more than anything: ‘The market will take care of it’. Land hoarding by developers is pernicious. The constitution protects them.
    You can get a flatpack house from IKEA for less than €100k that is as good or better than the average developer can provide for €300k.

  • Hugh Davison

    No. €50k cap is on taxable income, not tax. With other deductions you can get that down to 20% tax i.e. €10k.
    But you knew that already, didn’t you.

  • Hugh Davison

    Yes, I can just see you hitchhiking in to your job in Dublin every morning from a ghost estate in Roscommon.

  • Hugh Davison

    We embraced the idea that property is wealth. That is more of a British concept than a EU one. We (ideologically) decided that the market will take care of housing. This is not an EU thing. Many countries in the EU embrace the social housing concept that we have abandoned.

  • Hugh Davison

    Why do you need to own a house? Isn’t that part of the problem? What should be a service becomes an investment (and for many a mortgage millstone).

  • Hugh Davison

    Fine Gael policy is that the market will solve the housing problem. Nothing to do with the EU. (Are you a Russian troll by any chance?)

  • Paddy Reilly

    I take it that this question is rhetorical as I never suggested that this was the case. The EU is founded on the principle of free movement of labour, which is severely constrained by house ownership. The housing market is a gigantic bubble which was started in London and probably other capital cities.

    It began with the establishment of the Green Belt which caused the price of a house to rise way beyond the cost of building it. The next step was Mrs Thatcher’s proposal to sell off council housing (Housing Act 1980) and the removal of security of tenure in new tenancies (Landlord and Tenant Act 1987). I can recall an article in the Irish Times perhaps 40 years ago saying how crazy the NI housing market had become after the adoption of English planning regulations. It wasn’t long though before Dublin was on the same boat.

    I think Reaganomics worked on the same principle. Obviously a bubble is eventually going to burst and it was sub-prime mortgages that provoked the financial crash of 2007-8. Germany took a quite different path, with tenants’ right staying in place and home ownership remaining low. So it’s hardly the EU that is responsible for the current mess.

  • Hugh Davison

    It is rhetorical. Some on here would blame it on the EU, but you and I know the EU has nothing to do with the Irish property disease.

  • Abucs

    Fair point.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Indeed, although it is fashionable to criticise the church at present I’m a believer in ‘credit where credit is due’.