Lord Mayor Daithí de Róiste at the November monthly council meeting. Credit: Dublin City Council webcast

Fallout from Peter McVerry Trust

Dublin City Council and housing charities are to take over some of the housing projects that were being developed by the Peter McVerry Trust, says council housing manager Frank d’Arcy.

The Peter McVerry Trust runs more homeless hostels in Dublin than any other charity, accommodating more than 800 people. It also runs the Housing First programme, finding homes for those who have been long-term homeless. And, it has 27 housing projects that it is working on in Dublin city. 

Pat Doyle, the former CEO of the Peter McVerry Trust, stepped down in May 2023 after 18 years. Then in August, the Business Post reported that the charity had financial issues. 

Since then, the Charities Regulator and the Approved Housing Bodies Regulatory Authority (ABHRA) have both launched investigations into financial irregularities at Peter McVerry Trust. 

The Department of Housing and the Dublin Region Homeless Executive formed an oversight group, chaired by an independent governance and legal expert, to review the financial and governance issues at the charity and to advise the minister, said a spokesperson for the Department of Housing 

“Given the ongoing processes, the Charities Regulator investigation and the ABHRA investigation, the Department will not be commenting any further,” he said 

Meanwhile, councillors have been trying to work out what is going to happen to all the homeless hostels, support services, and housing projects that the Peter McVerry Trust runs. 

At a meeting of the full council on Monday 6 November, independent councillors Christy Burke and Mannix Flynn asked for an update. 

D’Arcy, the council housing manager, explained how the charity’s 27 housing projects, which are at different stages, would be sliced up.

“Fifteen of them are single units for Housing First, at conveyancing, and I think that Dublin City Council will step in and ensure that they proceed,” he said. 

The trust is developing 39 homes across two sites which are almost finished, he said. “We are hoping the Department will honour those,” said d’Arcy. 

The council is negotiating with other charities, hoping they will take over four housing projects, he said. 

That leaves the others without a firm future plan. “We’re in discussions in relation to how we might progress with those,” he said. 

In 2019, the Peter McVerry Trust was accommodating around 850 homeless people in Dublin each night, according to its website. 

Green Party Councillor Janet Horner asked what would happen to the homeless hostels. “One of the major concerns at the moment is that any contingency plan would involve privatising services,” she said. 

Mary Hayes, the director of the Dublin Region Homeless Executive, said she hopes that will not happen. 

“It’s our absolute priority that those buildings don’t revert to PEAs [private emergency accommodation],” said Hayes. “That we would like to retain the NGOs and have them on a sustainable footing.”

Dublin City Council didn’t respond directly to a question as to whether that means that the plan is for other charities to run those hostels.

Hayes said at the meeting that the oversight group, made up of the DRHE and department officials, has made its recommendations to the Minister for Housing, Darragh O’Brien. “We should be out of the wash with that very quickly,” she said.

She will try to get more information for councillors, she said. “I will take the request to make the report public to the OG [oversight group],” she said. “It wasn’t the intention when we were setting it up, but I’ll certainly take the request.”

The Department of Housing didn’t respond to a query as to whether another report, an audit report by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) into the financial affairs of the charity, is going to be published. 

Remaking the Artane Band

Dublin city councillors have agreed to call on the Artane Band to change its name,  uniform and insignia, in light of child abuse that took place when the band was part of the Artane Industrial School. 

Independent Councillor Mannix Flynn, a survivor of the industrial schools, has been campaigning since at least 2016 for the band to change its name and uniform. 

“We are sending out a signal that our suffering and the crimes committed against us didn’t matter. That we are nobody children, that didn’t have a voice,” he said, that year.

At the time, most councillors did not support him. Some accused him of making the proposal as a publicity stunt. 

But after several motions and discussions over years, in 2021 the majority of councillors backed a motion to remove the Lord Mayor’s patronage of the band.  

On Monday 6 November, speaking at the full council meeting, Flynn said that children suffered abuse in the Artane Boys Band. 

“The symbol of the Artane band, its uniform, its name, its insignia and its history are deeply traumatising and hurtful to the many thousands of us who were incarcerated in industrial and reform schools run by the Christian Brothers and other religious organisations,” he said in the motion.

Flynn said that it is not appropriate for the band to continue to march in that same uniform at major national occasions like All Ireland GAA finals. 

Many victims of institutional abuse have taken their own lives, he said, and others cannot watch GAA matches where the band is playing without being re-traumatised.

In an era where many symbols and statues are being reexamined, this should be among them, said Flynn. 

“This is our present-day suffering and it needs to stop. It is time now for change. Stop this re-traumatising and let us begin a proper process of recovery and healing,” he said.

At the meeting on Monday night, Flynn also apologised to council staff and councillors for shouting at a previous meeting, during a discussion about the Magdalene Laundry site on Sean McDermott Street.  

“I am very sorry and I apologise to those who felt threatened, or undermined, or at risk,” he said. “While I have suffered as a child in those institutions it doesn’t give me the right to create an atmosphere of fear in any particular room.”

His motion was seconded by independent Councillor Damien O’Farrell and the council agreed it without discussion. 

Grabbing an affordable home

Dublin City Council reports list plans for around 1,750 affordable-purchase homes in the coming years. Some in Ballymun are nearly finished, while others are still just on paper, shows a recent update. 

At the full council meeting on Monday 6 November, the councillors agreed on a scheme for how to prioritise applications from the rush of people who, when new affordable homes become available, are expected to apply to buy one.

Under the scheme, 70 percent of homes in each new development will have to be allocated in accordance with the national legislation. That means that they will be allocated to households that are the right size for the home, on a first-come first-served basis.

The other 30 percent of homes are reserved only for people who have lived in Dublin for more than three years – and those will be allocated at random.

To be eligible, applicants have to prove that their income is below a certain level, or that they can’t get a mortgage equivalent to 85.5 percent of the market value of the property for some reason, such as age.

Councillors welcomed the scheme and the number of affordable homes planned for the city. However several councillors raised concerns about the fastest-finger-first allocation for 70 percent of the homes. 

Social Democrats Councillor Mary Callaghan said that people who are very busy or those who struggle to fill out forms could lose out. “The people who probably have the most resources can get their applications in first.” 

National legislation should be changed to allow for all homes to be allocated by random selection, said Callaghan, as that would be fairer. 

Said Right to Change Councillor Pat Dunne: “I foresee chaos the day that one of these schemes is announced.” People would either have to queue outside the council or all go online at the same time, like for a concert, he said. 

Right to Change Councillor Sophie Nicoullaud also said that the council should prioritise Dubliners when allocating the affordable homes. 

In light of the housing crisis, Dubliners are being priced out by others arriving in the city to take up jobs in international companies, said Nicoullaud. 

“Considering that 35 percent of people are foreigners like me, which is a great thing, but it makes it even harder for Dubliners,” she says. “This is our opportunity to prioritise Dubliners first.”

According to 2022 census figures, about 27 percent of residents of Dublin city were born outside of Ireland. 

Immigrants are overrepresented among renters and underrepresented among homeowners, slowing integration, research by the Economic and Social Research Institute has said. 

One reason is that it is difficult for those who move to Ireland from outside of the European Union to work for international companies to get mortgage-approved, because of their immigration statuses.

Green Party Councillor Michael Pidgeon said that Dublin benefits from all the people who come from all over the world to live here. He wouldn’t change the scheme, he said. 

“That local 30 percent is the only discretion that we had,” said Labour Councillor Alison Gilliland, who chairs the housing committee, where she said the scheme was discussed in depth. 

Everyone who has lived in Dublin for a long time will be in with a shot for the 70 percent of homes too, she said. 

Nicoullaud, and her party colleague Dunne, asked if the council could change the scheme to benefit people who lived in Dublin for more than five years, instead of three years. But that proposal wasn’t voted on as it hadn’t been submitted as an amendment before the meeting. 

The scheme was agreed without a vote and Nicoullaud’s objection was noted.

Laoise Neylon is a reporter for Dublin Inquirer. You can reach her at lneylon@dublininquirer.com.

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