Here's a question. How many one bedroom apartments are available in South County Dublin to people on social welfare in receipt of housing payments?

The answer according to Richard Boyd Barrett, who was quoting from a report published today by the Simon Communities in Ireland, is one.

The Anti Austerity Alliance-People Before Profit group and Fianna Fáil both raised the issue of homelessness during Leaders' Questions in the Dáil today.

Fianna Fáil's Lisa Chambers said the Government's rental cap, which applies to properties in Dublin and Cork, needed to be extended to other areas.

She said families in her constituency had given up hope of getting a house, and are now coming to her, to seek assistance in finding private rental accommodation. 

"It is next to impossible to find a family home in Castlebar, Westport is a no go area" she said. 

"The problem is not limited to Dublin and Cork. Those areas will have to be extended."

Minister for Education Richard Bruton, who was taking questions on behalf of the Government, said this was an issue of "intense priority for the Government".

He said the Government had decided to extend the rental cap beyond Cork and Dublin, and those areas would be outlined today by Minister for Housing Simon Coveney.

Mr Boyd Barrett of the AAA-PBP described the Government's plan to address the housing crisis as "a total and abject failure that has failed to deal with the housing and homeless emergency"

"We have reached the shocking level of 7,100 people in emergency accommodation including 2,500 children" he said.

He added that there was only one one-bedroom apartment available at affordable rent in the whole of South Dublin.

"There were only two two-bedroom apartments."

Responding Minister Bruton defended the Government's plan to deal with homelessness which he said was already having an effect.

He said 47,000 social homes would be built under the plan and he said the housing assistance payment scheme had already accommodated 12,000 people last year.

Undocumented Irish

Sinn Féin's deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald raised the plight of Irish immigrants living in the US.

She stressed the need for Taoiseach Enda Kenny to prioritise the case of the 50,000 undocumented Irish.

Minister Bruton said the Government would take every opportunity to present that case.

He said US Vice President Mike Pence would be hosting events at the White House in March.

Macroom Bypass

And from Washington to Macroom, the final question to the Government during Leaders' Questions was asked by the son of an American woman.

But Danny Healy Rae of the Rural Alliance group, kept his focus on local interests.

He asked about the status of the Macroom Bypass which he said people had been waiting for, for 35 years.

He wanted the project fast tracked so that it would be ready in time, should Fitzgerald Stadium in Killarney be a host venue for the Rugby World Cup in 2023.

"Surely the people of Kerry are entitled to a proper road into the county", he said.

The Minister for Education said the Government recognised that the road is an essential link between Cork and Kerry and that it had full statutory approval.

He said that as the economy improves the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform has been able to put money into Capital plans.

He added that the country is recovery mode and money will be used to "the best affect".