FORMER Housing Agency chairman Conor Skehan has drawn strong criticism after declaring those who can’t afford to live in Dublin they should simply “move somewhere cheaper.”
Skehan made the controversial comments during an interview on RTE’s Prime Time where he was asked about the Irish capital’s spiralling property costs and lack of available housing.
Speaking to host Fran McNulty, Skehan said it ultimately came down to choice.
“If you live in the city you’ve already made a choice, you’ve chosen to live in the most expensive part of Ireland by choosing to live in Dublin city,” he said.
“That’s a choice. Move somewhere cheaper.”
When McNulty highlighted that, for many, it was down to the fact they worked in Dublin, Skehan suggested they also find employment elsewhere in Ireland.
“We choose where we work as well, we make a whole series of choices and we live by the consequences of it,” he theorised.
“The second most important thing is to start taking responsibility for our own decisions and choices and stop ourselves to be painted into a picture of being victims.”
Skehan also rejected calls for the Government to increase borrowing in order to address the mounting housing crisis in Dublin.
He instead called for beter management of housing across Ireland, noting that many vacant premises still need to be filled.
Ultimately, he felt it people need to be better “educated” in order to make “better decisions.
Move Somewhere Cheaper!
Conor Skehan former chair of the Housing Agency.
He has repeatedly claimed that homelessness is "normal" was "trying for years" to get the government to "recognise and normalise the situation" in Ireland #not1home #rtept pic.twitter.com/0X1nkwXjKw
— Mick Caul (@caulmick) June 4, 2021
The remarks drew a strong reaction from across the political divide.
Labour housing spokesperson Rebecca Moynihan was particularly scathing, branding Skehan an “absolute disgrace” over the comments.
“He clearly doesn’t understand the issue of housing at all,” she said.
“He actually said that building homes was the fourth on his list of things to do to address the housing crisis. This is coming from a man who was the head of a housing agency for Fine Gael.
“Conor has a complete lack of understanding about the need for affordable housing and how it should work. He fundamentally has disrespect for people’s rights and their need for housing.”
“He was an absolute disgrace and was shockingly bad when I listened to him,” she added.
“When he said people who don’t earn enough should move somewhere else, does he expect students and people who work in retail to move out of the capital?”
Sinn Féin housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin also dismissed Skehan’s remarks as “best ignored.”
“I’ve known Conor a long time through his time as chair of the Housing Agency, and I have to say he’s a contrarian and many of his views on housing are best ignored,” he told the Irish Daily Mail.
“I think his comments [on Thursday] night, particularly when he suggested that the solution to people’s affordability crisis is to move to somewhere cheaper, will cause widespread anger.”
He continued: “Many people simply do not have the choice where they live, either because there aren’t enough properties available or that they need to be in close proximity to schools, their places of work or public transport.”
“Conor regularly spouts his views, which I believe are designed to evoke a response.”
Fine Gael heartthrob Conor Skehan auditioning for Ireland’s biggest gombeen with nonsense waffle about housing. Why are these gombeens even platformed by RTE? pic.twitter.com/mV9iru3sC2
— Paddy Cosgrave 🏴☠️ (@paddycosgrave) June 4, 2021
Housing campaigner David Hall, of the Irish Mortgage Holders Organisation, also condemned Skehan’s remarks for showing a complete lack of empathy for the vulnerable in Dublin and accused him of being “full of hot air.”
“Conor Skehan was chair of the Housing Agency where homelessness rose by 400%,” he told the Mail.
“He doesn’t have dignified or empathetic views when it comes to housing.
“There seems to be an agenda and a disrespectful undercurrent in relation to a certain cohort of people who are more vulnerable when it comes to housing. Conor’s comments play into this narrative. He wants the wealthy people in the city and all the peasants elsewhere.”
Skehan was a controversial figure during his time as chair of the Housing Agency, when he infamously claimed the capital’s housing crisis was “completely normal” and accused homeless families of “gaming the system.”
Hee told Claire Byrne Live in 2019: “We continuously allow ourselves to be goaded by people in advocacy, which in any other field would be called lobbying, into trying to ignore the fact that we have equivalent levels of homelessness, which is an incredible human tragedy, to every other major country in Europe. It’s normal.’