Saturday 30 March 2024

Archbishop of Dublin describes level of homelessness as ‘chilling’ and calls for Government’s response to be sped up

Archbishop Michael Jackson of Dublin and Glendalough has described the acceptance of the level of homelessness in the country as “chilling” and he called for “an acceleration” of the Government’s response to the crisis.

Speaking to the Irish Independent following the ‘Walk with the Cross’ by Catholics and Protestants through the streets of Dublin city centre on Friday evening with Archbishop Dermot Farrell, Dr Jackson said his criticism was not to say that an effort isn’t been made, “but the problem runs ahead of any response”.

He said he “most acutely” saw homelessness in the capital in the mornings in the doorways of churches and shops or in alleyways.

“You see that people really have no option but to let go of their dignity. It is really tragic. There has to be solidarity. You would have to be heartless not to understand that there is true dilemma at the heart of what is happening,” he said.

He urged the churches to work with the secular authorities “to move things forward” and he suggested that a “civic conversation” on the crisis was needed in order to recognise “that there are people who are in positions of exhausted desperation who actually need a roof over their head”.

Archbishop Jackson, who is the Church of Ireland’s Primate of Ireland, said he was “disappointed” by the decision to move up to 200 international protection applicants who were sleeping in tents outside the International Protection Office in Dublin to Crooksling on the outskirts of the city.

“We do ourselves no good if we anaesthetize ourselves visually to something that is a reality. It is not actually a way of addressing the problem and I think it is an indignity to the people who were moved,” he said.

“There are various cultural considerations about that which really need to make us ‘stop the lights’. What responsibility do we have? Do we ‘invisibalise’ people who embarrass us, or do we say we cannot let this happen again.”

Asked about the fact that the homeless crisis was creating tension towards migrants and refugees, Dr Jackson criticised the failure of the authorities to prepare for this.

“If people ask me about my own job, I would say – 98pc of it is homework and 2pc is delivery. You need to do the preparation. We haven’t tried to de-stigmatise and take the danger out of what it is to meet people who are different from us,” he said.

Concern over people washing their hands and walking away from asylum seekers and refugees was also expressed by Archbishop Dermot Farrell during the Way of the Cross procession in Dublin’s Phoenix Park on Friday.

“This is the plight of asylum seekers and refugees when we abandon to their fate those who lack even the most basic requirements for human dignity,” he said.

He criticised as “alarming” the fact that when severe weather struck recently “distinctions were made between different categories of people living on the streets based on legal niceties rather than basic humanity”.