A FAMILY of four spent over three months living in a four-star hotel in Limerick city at a “horrendous and extravagant cost to the State”, Fianna Fail deputy Willie O’Dea has said.
Deputy O’Dea, who is set to star in a new TV3 documentary, where politicians spend time with constituents who are surviving on social welfare or living on the streets, revealed the extent of the homeless situation in Limerick.
In the upcoming episode, Deputy O’Dea meets the Llwellyn family of four who had been living in a cramped hotel room for months while they waited for a council house to become available.
“Some people may think they were living in the lap of luxury at the expense of the taxpayer, but they weren’t. They were going off their heads it was so cramped. I’m not sure of the exact figure it cost the State, but it was phenomenal, a horrendous cost. Thankfully they eventually got rehoused in a three-bed in Ballynanty,” he told the Limerick Chronicle.
The hotel has not been named by the producers. A one month’s stay in this hotel for four people is estimated to cost in the region of €3,000.
Father David Llewellyn spoke about his feelings of shame and the family’s helplessness in the situation.
“I try to keep it to myself (telling people where I’m living) because I’m embarrassed. It’s killing us at this stage. Three months is a long time,” he said during the programme.
On February 15 last, with the Llewellyns having spent over 14 weeks living in one hotel room, deputy O’Dea confronted Taoiseach Enda Kenny about their situation and the plight of other families suffering the same injustices.
Speaking in the Dáil, he said: “You will be aware Taoiseach that there are numerous people, whole families in some cases, crammed into hotel rooms, hostels and B&Bs, from one end of this country to the other, at horrendous cost to the State. These families are suffering incalculable misery. What I want to ask you now Taoiseach is, four years down the line, what is the Government going to do about that situation?”
The Taoiseach responded: “For the first time in so many years Deputy O’Dea, there were actually more beds available than people who needed them. It is true, and I went out on inspection myself with the Lord Mayor of Dublin, I can give you all of the details if you want, maybe I’ll send you a note updating you on what actually is happening.”
Deputy O’Dea said “there is a very definite disconnect between the system that’s here now and the people out there. That is undeniable. I mean, somebody only has to walk out the front door and stop the first person you see in the street and you’ll soon realise that, so the sooner the politicians stop denying that to themselves, the better.”
“We [Fianna Fáil] were decimated in the last election. We’ve taken lessons from that and we’re working very hard to put a new policy platform in place. If people look at our record in the whole, going back to 1932, rather than just looking at one particularly bad period of Fianna Fáil Government, I think that they may very well consider giving us a second chance. That’s to be debated.”
The series ‘Dáil on the Dole’, which started this Monday, airs on TV3 at 9pm, and will feature deputy O’Dea on Monday next, April 27.
In the forthcoming programme, deputy O’Dea also meets with Limerick native Jamie O’Sullivan, who was homeless and tried to leave behind his chequered past and make a fresh start. Drugs and petty crime led to alienation from his family and friends, and Jamie was making every effort possible to find a home and get a job, though it proved to be an uphill struggle. Again, he was rehoused, this time in Caherdavin.
Produced by Mind the Gap Films for TV3, this “unique” series intends to show TDs “exactly how the other half lives”.
Deputy O’Dea said he has dealt with similar situations throughout his career, and has heard many similar stories from people attending his clinics.
However, he said the show reveals the “huge housing problem” that exists in Limerick and the sense of alienation many people feel. He was assisted by Limerick City and County Council during the show, both of which are under “enormous pressure”, he said.
The other TDs involved are Catherine Byrne, Fine Gael for Dublin South Central, Joanna Tuffy, of Labour for Dublin South West, and John Halligan, an Independent for Waterford.