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 Header Item Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions (Continued)
 Header Item Gnó na Dála - Business of Dáil
 Header Item Ceisteanna ar Reachtaíocht a Gealladh - Questions on Promised Legislation

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 972 No. 8

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Thomas Pringle: Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle] The letter states that:

the current crisis is the manifestation of deep structural problems in housing policy and the philosophy that underpins it. Unless there is a radical change, we believe the crisis will simply deepen and worsen.

It calls for a rights-based approach to the housing situation and a referendum to enshrine the right to housing in the Constitution in order to change fundamentally and radically the Fine Gael policy which has led to nearly 10,000 people being homeless in Ireland today.

  As the Taoiseach is aware, I recently introduced the Thirty-Seventh Amendment of The Constitution (Economic, Social And Cultural Rights) Bill 2018 which seeks to enshrine rights to housing, healthcare and education and many other rights in our Constitution. It is the third time I have introduced the Bill which has twice been voted down by the Government and Fianna Fáil. It would support the concept of housing as a fundamental right alongside other rights which would facilitate healthy, sustainable life within the home, something every person in this country deserves. Enshrining the right to housing and associated economic, social and cultural rights would adequately and consistently defend the individual's right to housing rather than leaving him or her at the mercy of the ideological preferences of the Government of the day. The Bill would provide a mechanism to break down those structural problems by bringing about a human rights-based approach to service provision which would be defendable in the courts. As 83 constitutions in countries around the world include such provisions, it should be possible to pass such legislation in this State.

  Fine Gael's reliance on the private market and refusal to intervene has led to private interests being prioritised over the needs of individuals in this State. If our Constitution was fully rights-proofed, we would not be in this situation whereby half a million people are currently deprived of adequate housing and many more will be in the years to come. Homelessness is not normal or a market correction. It results from a choice made by this Government which facilitates an unhealthy relationship with private market interests. Will the Taoiseach enact a human rights-based approach to the housing crisis? Will he support the call for the right to housing and associated economic, social and cultural rights to be enshrined in the Constitution?

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar Housing is recognised as a human right in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights to which this country signed up many decades ago. I have an open mind on inserting economic, social and cultural rights into our Constitution but we must be careful about adding to the Constitution. I refer to the difficulties we went through in removing the eighth amendment and the ban on divorce.

Deputy Bríd Smith: Information on Bríd Smith Zoom on Bríd Smith It is shameful to compare the housing crisis to those issues.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar When adding to the Constitution, one must get the wording right and at least try to understand how it may be interpreted by the courts in two, ten, 20 or 30 years time. As Deputy Pringle rightly pointed out, 83 countries have a statutory right to housing. In some cases, that is provided for in the constitution of the country. Each of those countries has a level of homelessness which may be better or worse than that in Ireland. In many of the countries, some people live in shanty towns. Enshrining a right in legislation does not necessarily solve the problem. I am sure the Deputy is aware of the situation in Scotland, where the statutory right to housing was written into law in 2012. Some people believe we should do likewise. Although housing numbers fluctuate, the housing list in Scotland is as long now as it was in 2012. Homelessness there declined initially, but is now rising.

A simple amendment to legislation or enshrining some wording in our law or Constitution does not provide homes for people to buy------

Deputy Joan Collins: Information on Joan Collins Zoom on Joan Collins It would be a statement of intent.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar ------or make rent cheaper. We need practical solutions and that is what we are doing. The biggest social housing programme in decades is now under way. Some 100,000 social homes will be provided over the next ten years, with 8,000 provided this year and 7,000 last year. Some 20,000 new houses and apartments, many of then in my constituency, have been built across the country this year, up from 15,000 last year and 10,000 the year before. The solution is to build more homes of all types for people to live in. That is what must be done. The people restricting that are those who profess the ideology that there is only one way to build housing. This is an emergency and we will provide housing any way we can, by building, renovating, buying or leasing and through private, public and approved housing body development of social, affordable and other housing. We need more houses to be quickly delivered. I wish that those raising this issue would stop blocking such provision.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett We do not need unaffordable houses.

Deputy Bríd Smith: Information on Bríd Smith Zoom on Bríd Smith Deputy Pringle should stop laughing.

Deputy Thomas Pringle: Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle I am amazed by the Taoiseach's response which exemplifies why we need to enshrine the right to housing in our Constitution. It shows that he has no knowledge of or empathy towards those who depend on the State to step in and be the provider of last resort for housing. The Taoiseach referred to 8,000 social houses being provided this year. Where are they? I ask that the list of those houses be provided to every Member of the House. I guarantee it does not exist. It is an example of the lies which the Government has been coming out with when the issue of housing is brought up.

The Taoiseach associated housing with the repeal of the eighth amendment. The two are in no way connected. Enshrining the right to housing in the Constitution will not provide houses, but it would put the responsibility on the Government to solve the problem and provide the houses that are needed instead of publishing make-believe lists. We know that the 8,000 houses referred to by the Taoiseach have not been provided. If they have, I ask the Taoiseach to circulate the list to all Members of the House so that we can see where those homes have been built.

Deputy Eoghan Murphy: Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy The list is available online in the quarterly construction report.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett Only 16 social houses were provided in Dublin in the first half of this year.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar As the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, pointed out, that list is online.

Deputy Thomas Pringle: Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle Where is it available?

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I acknowledge that not all of the 8,000 properties are houses directly built by local authorities.

Deputy Thomas Pringle: Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle The Taoiseach is agreeing that 8,000 houses have not been delivered.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar Some were built by affordable housing bodies such as the Iveagh Trust, which has been providing housing in Dublin for decades or centuries, but the Opposition-----

Deputy Thomas Pringle: Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle The Taoiseach initially stated that 8,000 social houses were built.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar ------do not count such houses. Some of the houses were bought directly from developers. Many people in my constituency received social housing that was bought directly from a developer in places such as Waterville. However, to the Opposition such housing provision does not count.

Deputy Eoghan Murphy: Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy The Taoiseach's reference to 8,000 social houses is accurate.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar Many people are living in houses with long-term 20 or 30 year leases and have secure tenancies. None of that counts for some members of the Opposition, but it counts for the people living in those houses. I have handed over the keys to people moving into new homes such as those. Those people are not ideological about the mechanism used to provide the houses. Rather, they care about having a home in which to live.

Deputy Pringle acknowledged that a constitutional right to housing will not provide housing. He is correct in that regard. He stated that such constitutional provision would make it the responsibility of the Government to deal with this problem. We accept that it is the responsibility of the Government to deal with this problem. That is why we are doing what we are doing.

Deputy Thomas Pringle: Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle What the Government is doing is wrong.

Gnó na Dála - Business of Dáil

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Yesterday on the Order of Business the Business Committee was asked to consider providing time for Questions on Promised Legislation next week, budget week. That was agreed to by the Business Committee. A request was also made to hold a Friday sitting to consider the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Bill 2018. A majority of members of the committee were not in favour of that Friday sitting.

Deputy Bríd Smith: Information on Bríd Smith Zoom on Bríd Smith I was not in attendance at the meeting of the Business Committee. However, the original schedule for this week provided time tonight and tomorrow night for discussion of the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Bill. One of those slots has now been removed. The budget will take up a significant amount of time next week. It is imperative that we deal with the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Bill in a smooth and timely manner. Putting it back in this manner is unacceptable and very frustrating, particularly for women facing crisis pregnancies. Why are we waiting so long to progress the legislation? Why can we not dedicate the time to get the Bill over the line as soon as possible? Every day we wait, another 12 women in this country experience a crisis pregnancy.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl It is not for me to make that decision. A request was put to the Business Committee yesterday. A majority of its members were not in favour of a Friday sitting and that ends the matter.

Deputy Bríd Smith: Information on Bríd Smith Zoom on Bríd Smith Can it be put to a vote?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl I do not see the necessity for that.

Deputy Bríd Smith: Information on Bríd Smith Zoom on Bríd Smith Can that question be put to the House rather than the Business Committee?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl There is no motion before the House on the matter.

Deputy Bríd Smith: Information on Bríd Smith Zoom on Bríd Smith If I bring forward a motion, can it be put to a vote?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl There will be another meeting of the Business Committee on Thursday. The Deputy is entitled to raise the matter at that meeting.

Ceisteanna ar Reachtaíocht a Gealladh - Questions on Promised Legislation

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl We now move to Questions on Promised Legislation. Some 20 Members are offering. We will be able to get to them all if Members keep their contributions brief.


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