DUBLIN (Reuters) - The Archbishop of Dublin offered on Tuesday to house some of the city's homeless people in church property, as government policy came under fire after a homeless man died just metres from parliament.
The man's body was found by a passer-by in a doorway on Monday and has highlighted growing homelessness in Irish capital. More than 160 people sleep rough in Dublin each night, according to official figures, almost three times more than when Ireland's financial crisis began five years ago.
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, the head of the Catholic Church in Dublin, said one of his diocesan buildings could be made suitable before Christmas to provide shelter for between 30 and 40 homeless people in the inner city.
"Archbishop Martin said he is very deeply concerned about a deeply divided Dublin where on the one hand there is rejoicing at increased spending over the Christmas period and on the other hand where the number of those homeless and hungry is actually increasing," the Dublin diocese said in a statement.
While Ireland's economy is set to outpace the rest of Europe with growth of close to 5 percent this year, many complain about the unevenness of the recovery, particularly after years of relentless austerity that has cut services significantly.
Recent data showed more than 2,500 people, almost a third of them children, are in emergency accommodation in Ireland, a situation the Simon Community charity said made it increasingly difficult to find a bed for anyone living on the street.
With an acute shortage of housing supply in urban areas, the Irish government last week laid out plans to build and refurbish 35,000 social housing units over the next five years. Opposition parties criticised them for not reacting sooner.
Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly said on Tuesday that he would convene a special forum on homelessness this week, bringing together the heads of Dublin's local authorities and voluntary bodies to see what collective action can be taken.
"We are doing something about this and we need to continue to do an awful lot more, fellow minister Jan O'Sullivan told national broadcaster RTE.