Varadkar admits housing is ‘social disaster’ following President’s comments

Varadkar admits housing is ‘social disaster’ following President’s comments
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar with President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins following the his request to dissolve the 32nd Dail at Aras an Uachtarain, Dublin. Mr Varadkar has confirmed Ireland's General Election will be held on Saturday February 8.

James Cox

The Tánaiste has said he will not criticise the President for his comments about housing, because "some of what he said was true".

It is claimed Michael D Higgins spoke out of turn when he called the housing issue "our great, great failure" during a speech near Naas, Co Kildare on Tuesday.

However, Leo Varadkar said that while the current Government isn't responsible for the financial crash or housing bubble, and is working to provide new homes, the issue is a "social disaster".

'Social disaster'


Mr Varadkar told Newstalk: "You know a couple, both of whom have decent jobs, are unable to afford a home, and that wasn't the case for most of our history, to me that's a social disaster that people who are working hard and have decent incomes can't afford to buy a home."

He added: "Many are so frustrated at that, they're even willing to turn to populism, nationalism, and euroscepticism as a solution, in that scenario they lose their job as well as a house, but that is a disaster in my view."

President Higgins made the comments at the official opening of a new facility for young homeless people near Naas in Co Kildare on Tuesday.

Praising the redevelopment of Jigginstown Manor, a former residential home, into the Tiglin facility for homeless youth, the President used the event to question local and national policies to provide more homes for people and better facilities for the Travelling community.


'Great, great, great failure'

“How republican is what we created? And isn’t it sometimes very much closer to the poor law system that we thought we were departing from. That is a real challenge,” he said.

“I have taken to speaking ever more frankly in relation to housing, because I think it is our great, great, great failure.

This is not the first time the President has publicly shared his views on the housing situation.


Mr Higgins previously referenced the housing crisis in a 2018 speech at the 2018 Galway International Arts Festival, where he called for a debate on “all the constituent parts of our housing system”.

While in his 2017 Christmas message, Mr Higgins said it was another season overshadowed by homelessness and those who are “deprived of a secure and permanent shelter”.