Tuesday, 14 May 2019
An Bille um an gCúigiú Leasú is Tríocha ar an mBunreacht (An Ceart chun Teaghaise) 2016: An Dara Céim [Comhaltaí Príobháideacha] - Thirty-fifth Amendment of the Constitution (Right to a Home) Bill 2016: Second Stage [Private Members]
Thomas Pringle (Donegal, Independent)
I had written a nice speech about how having such a provision in the Constitution could be treated, considered, addressed and so on. I do not usually sit in the Chamber and listen to the speeches of the Government because they are usually claptrap, although the Minister of State, Deputy Stanton's, contribution on the Bill was even worse. I listened to it and have read a copy of it. I am sorry the Minister of State has left the Chamber because I do not think he believes what he read out. It was amazing. Economic, social and cultural rights were mentioned in the context the recommendations of the Convention on the Constitution, which reported in March 2014. The Minister of State indicated that the Government will refer the matter to a committee to consider whether housing rights should be enshrined in the Constitution but it has been five years since the report. That is a load of rubbish. I have moved two economic and social rights Bills, most recently in 2016, but both times the Government voted them down and rejected them. There is no way the Government will consider the matter in committee at some stage in the future. The Government intends to move it to a committee rather than voting it down because local elections will be held next week and a general election is probably coming within the next year.
That is why the Government is doing it. It will give this claptrap of how a committee will sort it out. It is a load of rubbish. Then we hear from Fine Gael's partners in government, Fianna Fáil, stating it has to consider carefully these rights. This crisis in housing has been going on for eight years. For the whole time I have been a Member of the Dáil, the crisis has been ongoing. Fine Gael has been in power for the whole time and it has done absolutely nothing. Ideologically, it wants to see the crisis continue because it supports developers and does not see a right to housing; it sees that housing will be provided by the private sector and that is where it will stay.
In his contribution later the Minister of State, Deputy English, will probably state we are in crisis and we cannot deal with this now because we have to deal with the crisis and we have been under the cosh for so many years and we have had to deal with all of that. Portugal went through a crisis and bailout at the same time as us but Portugal had housing rights and economic, social and cultural rights protected in its constitution. What happened was the European Commission could not attack those rights and neither could the Government because they were enshrined in the Constitution. As the rights were protected constitutionally, it could not attack them when it got there. Now, Portugal is one of the leading lights of left-wing governments in Europe. It welcomes people and does not try to stop them coming in. If this right had been enshrined in the Constitution eight years ago we could have protected our people. There is a chance now to enshrine it in the Constitution but the Government will not do it and neither will Fianna Fáil. That is the way it will be and that is fine but the Government should not pretend to Sinn Féin that it will refer this to a committee and the committee will speak about it and come back to us on it because the Government has already voted this down twice in recent years and it will do so again.