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Irish President Wades Into Housing Crisis, Calling Situation ‘A Disaster’

Irish President Michael Higgins has commented on the country's housing crisis.

Irish President Michael D Higgins has waded into the country’s housing debate after describing the lack of homes as the country’s “great, great failure”.

The president made his remarks at the opening of a new facility to support young adults emerging from homelessness in County Kildare. In Ireland the role of president is more ceremonial than in other countries, rather than being head of state. 

Higgins described the situation in Ireland as a “disaster”, commenting on the “mad speculative” money that in his opinion was “destroying the country”.

“It isn't a crisis anymore — it is a disaster," Higgins said in a speech. “The basic needs of people in a republic: food, shelter and education.

"Housing and the basic needs of society should never have been left to the marketplace.”

Elected in 2011, Higgins is Ireland’s ninth president since the country secured its independence from the UK. The intervention by Higgins comes as levels of available homes in Ireland drop to a new low.

According to a report by in April, there were fewer than 1,000 homes available to rent in Ireland. Tens of thousands of homes are also stuck in the planning system awaiting the outcome of judicial reviews, much to the chagrin of developers.

Last month the Irish government reiterated plans to clamp down on Airbnb landlords, whom many have attributed to exacerbating the crisis.

The facility at Jigginstown Manor, near the town of Naas in County Kildare, was designed to house young adults who remain vulnerable to homelessness. The Irish president praised the new residence, stating that it was an example to other local authorities in the country. 

Higgins also took aim at international finance in his speech.

“I ask myself the question when we walk through our cities and within 200 yards you see so many derelict buildings, so many abandoned buildings.

"Building homes is what is important, it is not to be a star performer for the speculative sector internationally or anything else.”