Thirty-fifth Amendment of the Constitution (Right to Housing) Bill 2017: First Stage


Go gceadófar go dtabharfar isteach Bille dá ngairtear Acht chun an Bunreacht a leasú.

I move:

That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to amend the Constitution.

I feel impelled to bring forward this Bill which seeks to insert into the Constitution an imperative to establish specifically the right to secure, affordable, dignified housing appropriate to need for all residents of Ireland and, as part of that, to delimit the right to private property where it is necessary to ensure the common good and vindicate a right to housing for all residents. I believe that is necessary because it has often been cited that the constitutional protections regarding private property are a block to establishing a secure right to housing. That is something of an excuse put forward by political parties of the establishment in this country, mostly Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, which wish to protect the rights of landlords, developers and the property-owning class to make money out of property and housing. Nonetheless, it is important to clarify the Constitution and insert this imperative so that it becomes an obligation and duty of any Government to secure what is the most basic right, namely, the right to a secure, dignified and appropriate roof over one's head. This is something the current Government has singularly failed to do, as have previous Fianna Fáil Governments.

I was not aware until recently that, at the time of the debate on the Lisbon treaty, one of the derogations the then Fianna Fáil Government sought from the Charter of Fundamental Rights was, incredibly, in respect of the article on the right to housing. This indicates the disposition of both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, which we saw last week with their position on Deputy Pringle's Thirty-Fifth Amendment of the Constitution (Economic, Social and Cultural Rights) Bill. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are absolutely resistant to establishing a right to housing in the Constitution. This is despite the fact that 84% of those involved with the Constitutional Convention, which the Government set up, said they wanted the right to housing to be inserted into the Constitution. Even its own body has injuncted the Government to establish this right. We have an unprecedented housing emergency that gets worse by the day. The Government's plans have utterly failed to address this but it still resists inserting the right to housing in the Constitution. This is the most elementary right. A Government which cannot secure the basic right to put a roof over the heads of our citizens does not deserve to be in office. If it cannot do that, what the hell can it do? It self-evidently cannot do that. Rebuilding Ireland is an abject and utter failure. Every day the situation gets worse. It is all because of the Government’s ideological commitment to private interests which make money from property.

Last week, I raised the case of a young homeless woman, Sinead, who was told she had to travel 12 km with her young daughter to Francis Street. In fairness, I did get a call from the Minister because he was obviously embarrassed by this. Sinead is now self-accommodated in a hotel in Dún Laoghaire. However, she told me this morning it is only until 7 April, when she will be left insecure again. Will she be put into squalid tenement housing, as some people are, or accommodation with chronic damp, full of drug users, as others have been? Alternatively, will the State have a legal obligation to give her a secure roof over her head? What about child welfare? The homeless child is subject to all of this.

What about the case of Antonia, a woman with two children, whose father suffers from motor neurone disease? She has a four-bed housing need and was granted housing priority in 2012. In the past few weeks, however, she has been given notice to quit by her landlord. When average rents in Dún Laoghaire are €2,300, housing assistance payment, HAP, offers €1,900 for housing which does not exist. This is what is going on. This is the human suffering.

Will the Government listen to the Constitutional Convention, take seriously the housing emergency and support this Bill to insert the right to housing into our Constitution?

Is the Bill opposed?

Cuireadh agus aontaíodh an cheist.
Question put and agreed to.

Since this is a Private Members' Bill, Second Stage must, under Standing Orders, be taken in Private Members' time.

Tairgim: "Go dtógfar an Bille in am Comhaltaí Príobháideacha."

I move: "That the Bill be taken in Private Members' time."

Cuireadh agus aontaíodh an cheist.
Question put and agreed to.