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Dáil defeats Bill that would make housing a constitutional right

Dun Laoghaire TD Richard Boyd Barrett has called the government “shameful” for not supporting the Bill.

THE DÁIL HAS voted to defeat a Solidarity-PBP Bill which aims to make housing a constitutional right.

Uniting with Fianna Fáil, the government defeated the Right to Housing Bill by 73 votes to 37. Instead, the Bill is to be sent to the Oireachtas Finance Committee for consideration.

Dun Laoghaire TD Richard Boyd Barrett has called the government “shameful” for not supporting the Bill, stating that the Constitutional Convention recommended that the right to housing be included in the Constitution a number of years ago.

In 2014, the Constitutional Convention voted to have the right to housing, social security, and essential health care “expressly stated” in the Constitution.

The Convention was tasked with considering certain aspects of the Constitution to ensure that it is fully equipped for the 21st Century and to make recommendations to the Oireachtas on future amendments to be put to the people in referendums.

In light of rising homeless figures, with some 8,000 people living in emergency accommodation, Boyd Barrett said he is dismayed as to why the government would not support the Bill.

Referred to committee

“Why would a proposal to enshrine the right to housing as a basic human right be referred to the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform and Taoiseach three years after the Constitutional Convention said that it should be put in the Constitution?” he asked the Tánaiste during Leaders’ Questions today.

13/9/2017 People Before Profit Solidarity Meetings Conferences Solidarity-PBP TD Richard Boyd Barrett. Source: Leah Farrell/Rollingnews.ie

“Perhaps the motive was revealed when I asked the Taoiseach yesterday why the government is not supporting that proposal and he said: ‘I do not believe that everyone should be housed for free.’ What on earth was the Taoiseach talking about? Who is housed for free in this State?” said Boyd Barrett.

Right to a home 

During a debate on the issue of bedsits yesterday, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he  ”absolutely” believes that every citizen has a right to a home.

“Whether that right should be a constitutional provision, or not, is a different question,” he said, adding that before anything is inserted into the Constitution, the consequences need to be carefully considered.

We have previously put into the Constitution measures which have been interpreted by the courts in a manner other than was intended. We need to tread carefully when it comes to our Constitution because changes to it take power away from this House and puts it in the hands of the courts, which is something we should always be very cautious about doing.
In saying that a citizen has a right to a home, I am not saying that everyone should have a free home because I do not believe that is possible. I do not believe that everyone should be housed for free.

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LR FG PRESS CONFERENCE 758A3398_90523362 Taoiseach Leo Varadakar. Source: Eamonn Farrell/Rollingnews.ie

The Taoiseach said it is “appropriate that people would contribute to the cost of their accommodation”, adding: “In fact, I believe that is the only way to deal with the problem. Also, I do not believe it is possible for everyone to home the home of their first choice. These are the kind of complexities that always need to be considered.”

Boyd Barrett said a number of other countries around the world have enshrined the right to housing into law.

“Even the Taoiseach’s new best pal, Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister of Canada, is about to bring forward a right to housing into Canadian law.

“81 other countries in the world have it but the Irish Government, in the face of a catastrophic housing emergency, will not put a basic right to secure, affordable, dignified housing into the Constitution so that it is a right for every resident of this country to have a home and, as our Bill proposes,” he said.

After the Bill is considered by the Finance Committee, the Taoiseach will review “the implications arising in terms of balance of rights, good governance, including the separation of powers and resource prioritisation,” said a government spokesperson.

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