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Government accused of abject failure in dealing with population growth

19 October, 2005


Sinn Féin spokesperson on Environment and Local Government, Arthur Morgan TD has called on the Government to "stop patting" themselves on the back in relation to the most recent population and migration estimates.  Deputy Morgan was speaking during statements on the Quarterly national household survey in the Dáil today.  Deputy Morgan said that the Government had abjectly failed to plan for the needs of the increasing population saying, "we have overpriced houses, 50,000 on social housing waiting lists, overcrowded hospitals, traffic congestion and jam-packed commuter trains."

"By April of this year, the population of this state had reached 4.13 million.   Rapid population increases as a result of economic growth have exasperated problems in provision of public services, transport, health care, education and housing and has contributed to a deterioration in quality of life for many in the state," he said.

"Increased tax revenues from the increased workforce have not been put back into increased services for an increased population.   This is a dangerous mistake.  As the population continues to grow services and infrastructure are stretched to their limits."

Full text of statement

Quarterly national household survey - population and migration estimates  - Statement by Arthur Morgan TD

This debate is a timely opportunity to discuss this Government abject failure to plan for the needs of the increased and increasing population. I am talking about the failure of the Government to prepare for the housing needs, transport needs and the healthcare needs of the increased population.

So lets stop patting ourselves on the back.

We have overpriced houses, 50,000 on social housing waiting lists, overcrowded hospitals, traffic congestion, jam-packed commuter trains. 

By April of this year, the population of this state had reached 4.13 million.   Rapid population increases as a result of economic growth have exasperated problems in provision of public services, transport , health care, education and housing and has contributed to a deterioration in quality of life for many in the state.

Increased tax revenues from the increased workforce have not been put back into increased services for an increased population.   This is a dangerous mistake.  As the population continues to grow services and infrastructure are stretched to their limits

Housing

The Government has failed to plan for the long term housing needs of a growing population.

The housing stock per population in the 26 counties was 390 per 1000 population at the end of 2003 compared to the EU 15 average of 440. 

There are currently 50,000 families on social housing waiting lists.  Many of these people have been waiting years to be housed.  Some, such as single males, find particularly difficult to secure social housing.

The National Economic and Social a Council that “an increase of permanent social housing units, owned and managed by local authorities and voluntary and co-operative bodies, in the order of 73,000 in net terms between 2005 and 2012 is necessary to meet the need for social housing.”  Nearly a year on from the publication of that important report the government has yet to make any statement indicating whether they have accepted this recommendation. 

In no other area of policy is the hands off approach more evident than with regard to housing.  It is bizarre that something so vital to life is so ignored.  What is the Government housing strategy, how does the Government intend to address the housing needs of the increasing population?

Health Service

Population growth has not been met by a growth in the capacity of the health service.  The effects of this are seen from overcrowding in A&E, bed shortages and unacceptable waiting times for urgent medical intervention.

3,000 extra beds in public hospitals were promised in the 2001 National Health Strategy by 2011 (650 by end of 2002). Only 800 have been provided by this month, according to Government figures. Plans for Primary Care centres across the state have been put on hold.

Migrant workers

The treatment which many of the migrants who come to this state receive is the unpalatable truth that lies behind these statistics.  I wont go into this issue in detail now suffice to say that the Government reaction shows no sign that they are committed to cracking down on this exploitation.  The pathetic strength of the labour inspectorate along testifies to this. 

According to these figures the total immigration flow into the state in the twelve months to April 2005 was estimated at 70,000, 38 per cent of whom were national of the 10 new EU accession states.

At the time of accession of these states the Government introduced a habitual residence (2 year) requirement before workers can access social assistance.  Sinn Féin opposed the introduction of these restrictions arguing that the proposals would expose migrants workers to unnecessary hardship. 

There is now evidence of the hardships which such workers experience in situations such as when they have unexpectedly become unemployed and in some cases homeless where their accommodation was linked to their employment.

Yesterday the Irish Congress of Trade Unions published a briefing paper on Migration Policy and the Rights of Migrant Workers in which they called for the amendment of the habitual residence requirement to “specifically allow for the payment of social assistance/benefit to workers on employment permits, who are made redundant or who have been unfairly dismissed, including constructive dismissal”.   This is a reasonable demand which I would urge the Government to act on without delay.

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