President Michael D Higgins has described housing in Ireland as "our great, great failure".

The President was speaking at the official opening of Jigginstown Manor, a new supported residence facility for young adults emerging from homelessness outside Naas in Co Kildare.

"It isn't a crisis anymore - it is a disaster," President Higgins said, adding that Ireland needs to meet "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 market place," the President said.

"It is the mad speculative money that is destroying our country, which we are welcoming, which we shouldn't be," he added.

President Higgins praised Wicklow and Kildare county councils which had supported Tiglin housing initiatives such as Jigginstown Manor and called on other local authorities to support similar projects.

"Let all the county managers and the directors of services all over the country have a good long look at what is happening in Wicklow and Kildare and ask themselves a question before their next monthly meeting and ask themselves: 'Why aren't we doing something similar? What is stopping us?'

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

"When you look at half emptied villages, when you look at villages and towns from which the banks have fled because they have taken their profits, and now operate differently. Why can't we in fact achieve those kind of results that we are celebrating here today," the President said.

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In a call for action, the President added: "Let's house our people, let's educate our people, let's show that no one is going hungry, let's show that no one is excluded from any part of our society.

"That is what we should be celebrating 100 years on from the time we got the opportunity to be an independent people."

The President said that there had been a 90% increase in the homelessness of young people and that the "outlook is getting darker".

He said it was also important for older people to be able to stay part of their communities "with dignity".

He was critical of shortcomings in Traveller accommodation, calling it "immoral, wrong and irresponsible to leave people in the conditions we have left some of our travelling people".

Responding to the comments, the Department of Housing said "Minister O'Brien is very aware of the many challenges which exist in housing. Increasing supply of all types of housing - social, affordable purchase, cost rental and private is at the heart of the Housing for All policy".

The Department said: "We need to get to a point where an average of at least 33,000 homes are being delivered each year and that’s what the four pathways in Housing for All are focussed on.

"We’re thankfully seeing some very positive trends with housing commencements, completions and planning permissions all rising significantly.

"The plan contains 18 separate actions to tackle homelessness and reach the overall objective of ending homelessness by 2030.

"These actions are being progressed as a matter of priority to try to reverse the upward trend which we have seen recently in homelessness figures.

"Huge challenges remain, the Minister does not underestimate these challenges, but is working with his Department, with NGOs and with all Stakeholders to address them."