Thursday, 11 July 2019
Citizens' Assemblies Bill 2019 [Seanad]: Second and Subsequent Stages
Implementation is a matter for the Oireachtas, not for me. Many of the really serious recommendations that have come from previous Citizens' Assemblies and Constitutional Conventions have been implemented. Some are unfortunately still stuck in committees that Fine Gael does not control. I have said before that I am open to enshrining a right to housing, as is the Taoiseach. Currently we are involved in very serious measures to increase housing supply and protections. We are also open to a debate on a referendum on how a right to housing might properly be instituted in Irish law, either through statute or constitutional change. That matter is still with the committee, which is not chaired by Fine Gael.
I wish to reaffirm that the Citizen's Assembly will report to the Oireachtas. It will be for the Oireachtas to decide, given the manner in which it reports and the recommendations that are made, whether to establish a special committee or forward the question to the existing committees and work from there.
If I may address the matter on Second Stage, this is pertinent to one of the amendments put down by Sinn Féin. We dealt with it in the Seanad. I understand it was withdrawn at the time, but I thought it was going to be an amendment of the motion. My point at the time was that it would not be appropriate for me as Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government to come to the Oireachtas to report on the Citizens' Assembly's work on gender or other issues. It might fall to several Ministers or we might decide to set up a separate structure. The motion establishing the Citizens' Assemblies might be the best way to determine a reporting procedure. That said, the Citizens' Assembly is responsible to the Oireachtas and will report to it. We will then have an opportunity to consider how to move forward. Now is the time to think about what reporting arrangement we might want for the Citizen's Assembly on local governance in the four Dublin local authority areas and whether the Citizens' Assembly should report to the Oireachtas through a Minister or in some other manner. This is an electoral Act which needs to be reformed, which is the technical reason we are discussing it now.