Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Thursday, 21 March 2024

Committee on Key Issues affecting the Traveller Community

Traveller Accommodation: Discussion (Resumed)

Ms Sin?ad Lucey:

The European Committee of Social Rights reported on Ireland's performance in the context of a case that was taken against Ireland in respect of evictions and Traveller accommodation. It found that, to this day, Ireland remains in breach of Article 16 of the revised European Social Charter. There is work to be done there and it would be worth the committee's while to consider that.

With regard to a referendum to amend the Constitution, it is very interesting and we could debate it all day. We talk about resources a lot but Ireland is a rich country. We have been living with a housing crisis for more than ten years, yet it goes on and on. Something radical has to be happen, whether that is a referendum or something else. The value of a referendum is that it is a choice by the people on what they want to see in the future and where they want to see resources going. We adopted a Constitution with a right to education and that has never caused us significant difficulty. There are issues around disability and so on but, as a fundamental right, we have never questioned it. Our children go to school and we never question that. Why would we question citizens having access to housing? It is something about which, fundamentally, the people should be asked. Obviously, everything will come down to the wording of any proposed amendment. The Housing Commission has been set up and has significant expert input. We await the wording that will emerge from the commission in due course. That may be a matter for the committee to consider. The wording has to be calibrated according to the particular society and political system and so on, but it is not impossible to enshrine socioeconomic rights in the Constitution. We already deal with them. How much longer do we want the housing crisis to go on? Do we want a strong statement from the people that enough is enough and housing is now a rights issue, rather than it being about whatever political Government is in place or choices between competing resources? It would a really interesting debate and I hope such a referendum would be successful. Ultimately, it would be up to the people to decide where their values lie and what they want the State and the Government to deliver for them in that field.


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