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]
I will respond to some of the points made by the two Ministers of State and Deputy Casey. The Minister of State, Deputy Stanton, said this issue had not undergone sufficient scrutiny. Everyone else has referred to the very detailed work of the Constitutional Convention, which was very substantive. There was also detailed consideration of this proposal at the Committee on Housing and Homelessness, including presentations from experts, legal advisors and legal professionals. We also have examined this matter in great detail at the Joint Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government and reports have been authored by Mercy Law Resource Centre, the Ombudsman for Children and a range of other figures. Many Members have spent their time wisely and have considered this matter in great detail. If members of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have not used that time in the same way, I am sorry. They were given the opportunity of listening to the real and clear benefits that such a right would have.
The Minister of State, Deputy English, listed what he believed to be a set of rights. I would hazard to guess that if he submitted those arguments in an undergraduate law essay, he would fail. Rights are not something to be applied for which one might get by meeting certain criteria. That is the opposite of rights. It is why legislation has the word "may" rather than "shall" when outlining what a local authority may or may not do. They are not legal rights. To answer his question very directly, all of the legal opinion we have heard at the Joint Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government has shown the value of a legal and constitutional right to housing is the fact that it provides a basic floor of protection, so that every single thing a Government does - legislation, policies and budgets - must have due regard to how it will vindicate that right. It does not provide everyone with a set of keys to a home nor is it a silver bullet that will resolve all problems. However, it provides an additional check and forces Governments to consider these issues, in exactly the same way it has to do with all of the other enumerated rights in the Constitutions. To Deputy Casey I say, of course, it is not a stand-alone proposal. He is correct that referendums cost money, but the idea that his party would oppose a legal right to housing because it might mean an additional 75 homes in his constituency is almost comical.