This is the full text of the speech delivered by Jonathan O’Brien TD to the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis in Derry
“It took the tragic death of homeless man Jonathan Corrie, on steps of the Dáil, for Minister Alan Kelly and the Irish government to even acknowledge that there is a housing & homelessness crisis.
There are currently close to 90,000 households on housing waiting lists which amounts to over 200,000 people.
That’s 200,000 men, women and children who are currently deprived of a place that they can genuinely call a home.
Another damning indictment of government policy is that services in this state, for those in recovery who are experiencing homelessness, remain scattered and uncoordinated. This is a failure of which my family has had first-hand experience.
All of this didn’t happen by accident.
The housing & homelessness crisis is a direct result of bad government and bad policies.
It is a result of governments that have actively sought to eliminate the state’s responsibility to provide affordable housing for its citizens.
Fine Gael and the Labour Party do not see housing or homes as a right.
They see housing solely as market in which enormous profits can be made for landlords operating in the private sector.
The state heavily subsidises the profit made in the private rental sector to the tune of €500 million with rent allowance and RAS payments.
They do this while refusing to devise a credible social housing strategy.
The strategy that they announced shortly before Christmas is already in tatters with targets that can no longer be met.
All this while tenants and families are pushed across the poverty threshold as they struggle to keep up with skyrocketing rents.
With thousands households in mortgage distress and with repossession of family homes throughout the land becoming ever more frequent - people will say that this government has failed in the area of housing.
And they are right!
The scary thing is that this government is consigning tens of thousands of people to a life on housing waiting list, they are forcing many others to a life in substandard private rented accommodation.
Poverty and homelessness is the fate of many people under this Government’s watch and they seem to be okay with this situation.
Well we in Sinn Féin are not okay with it!
We are Irish Republicans and we believe that people have a right to housing.
That is the difference between us and them.
They see the size of one’s wallet as bestowing rights.
We believe that a person has rights regardless of their wealth or purchasing power.
A person should be able to access quality, affordable housing no matter what their income or their background.
Under Sinn Féin the right to housing will be just that, a right! It will not be a commodity that only those with big enough wallets can afford.
Sinn Féin is the only party that has the political will to turn the tide of this crisis.
Housing is a right and Sinn Féin will ensure that this right is delivered on for our citizens.