New Mayor reveals how he became homeless

By Aideen O’ Flaherty

THE newly elected Mayor of South Dublin County Council and Sinn Féin councillor for Clondalkin, Mark Ward, revealed during his acceptance speech on Friday that he was homeless for several months during 2016 and 2017, and that housing will be his top priority during his mayorship.

Mayor Ward, who is part of the Progressive Alliance, was elected Mayor at the council’s AGM on Friday, June 29, after Paul Gogarty, Mayor for 2017-2018 and an Independent councillor for Lucan, stepped down from the mayoral position after a year of representing the region.

facebook Linked Image Mayor Mark Wardfinal

Mayor Mark Ward

In previous years the Progressive Alliance, which had 13 Labour, Sinn Féin and Independent councillors, had a pre-agreed Mayors and Chairs pact as they were in the majority in the chamber, but after four councillors were removed from the alliance last February there was a degree of uncertainty about who would ultimately be elected Mayor.

Fine Gael councillor for Lucan, Vicki Casserly, was also in the running for Mayor, and Mayor Ward began his speech by offering his commiserations to Cllr Casserly, before describing his pride at being elected Mayor - and how his own brush with homelessness has given him first-hand experience of the housing crisis, prompting this to be the main issue he wants to tackle in his new position.

Mayor Ward said: “As a North Clondalkin boy I am the first person from my area to hold this office – this fills me with pride, not only for myself but for my area in general.

“I have been asked what my theme or goals for my year as Mayor will be, and I’ve only three words to answer that: housing, housing and housing.

Housing is my number one priority

“Housing is my number one priority as Mayor.”

Mayor Ward revealed he became homeless in November 2016 after he received a notice to quit from his landlord, which led to him staying in emergency accommodation, and in Apollo House during Christmas, all while trying to secure housing through the HAP (Housing Assistance Payment) scheme.

Mayor Ward explained: “As a member of this chamber I went about my duties as best I could, despite the circumstances I was in.

“It took me six months to find accommodation through Homeless HAP.

“I see at first hand the difficulties our constituents face, and I am going public [about being homeless]…to show that homelessness can happen to anyone at any time in the current climate.”

Mayor Ward added that he wants “to see an end to the government’s over reliance on the private sector to meet social and affordable housing demands” and that he wants SDCC to become “the lead agency” in delivering affordable and social housing.

In reference to his colleagues in the council chamber, Mayor Ward said he would have an “open door” policy during his tenure, and that he “will extend an olive branch to anyone that I have had past political differences with to use that open door”.

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