Seanad debates

Friday, 4 June 2021

9:30 am

Photo of Fiona O'LoughlinFiona O'Loughlin (Fianna Fail)

It gives me great pleasure to second the motion, which goes to the very heart of the party I am proud to represent, Fianna Fáil. It is a party that has done much work in providing homes and sustainable communities. We are in a crisis. The time we have spent here discussing housing in the past week shows that it is the most crucial issue we are dealing with and rightly so. Much of our time in the Dáil and the Seanad in recent years has been consumed by the Brexit and Covid-19 crises. We must completely redirect our energy and focus now to housing to ensure people have the opportunity to have safe, secure and affordable homes. My colleague, Senator Fitzpatrick, is correct about bringing this debate from these Houses to the people of Ireland. We must have a national conversation regarding a right for everyone to have a safe, secure and affordable home. We must have that right enshrined in Bunreacht na hÉireann forevermore so that generations of politicians and people living in our country in the years to come will benefit, hopefully, from having such a provision inserted in the Constitution.

The crisis in housing means we are referring to many different cohorts of people. We are referring to people who cannot afford their own homes and who make up housing lists nationwide, including 6,500 people in my county of Kildare. We are talking about people who are continuing to live with their parents well beyond the time when they should have been able to move into spaces of their own. We are talking about families living in very cramped accommodation and not being able to buy homes or upgrade from starter homes to ones where families can be raised. We are also talking about a generation of people who may have reared their families and are now ready to move from a larger home. They may want the opportunity to move to a different type of living accommodation, whether within a retirement complex or to a smaller home close to services in a town centre. Therefore, we must consider all the cohorts involved.

We must especially consider those people who have no homes to call their own and who are living in emergency accommodation. Such situations have devastating impacts on family units. Teachers have told me that they see the impact of such situations manifested in schools, particularly regarding children's ability to learn and progress. Toxic stress within families has a devastating impact on students and this has been demonstrated through research conducted in America. We must be mindful, therefore, of the generations coming up and ensure that they will have the best opportunities in life. In addition, we must also consider students having access to accommodation close to their college or other place of education. We must, therefore, cater for many different groups of people in this regard.

We must all work together and put party politics aside in working on the issue of housing.I honestly believe that inserting the right to housing within our Constitution to a certain extent takes the politics out of it, because we all have a united aim. Let us all get behind this motion. I appeal to my colleagues to do so. Let us take the politics out of housing and do our best to ensure we have a national conversation. People down the line will thank us for inserting that provision.

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