Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Morgan calls for right to housing to be enshrined in constitution

11 November, 2003

Speaking at a press conference today before a debate in the Dáil later on a Bill which  would  enshrined  the  right  to  housing  in  the Constitution, Sinn Féin spokesperson on the Environment and Local Government Arthur Morgan TD said:

"Adequate  housing  is  universally viewed as one of the most basic human needs. Sinn  Féin believes that housing is a fundamental right, which must be enshrined in  the  Constitution  and  that is why we are launching this campaign today and bringing  a  constitutional  amendment  Bill  before  the  Dáil.   It is totally unacceptable  that  people  are  living in this State without access to adequate housing.

"The  Fianna Fail/PD coalition government has consistently failed to address the housing  crisis,  which has become progressively worse during the six years that this  coalition  has  been in power.  Under the stewardship of Martin Cullen and his  sidekick  Noel Ahern, housing has slipped off the Government agenda. All we get  from  the  Government these days are denials from Noel Ahern that there are hundreds  of  people  sleeping  rough on Dublin streets, insinuations that those seeking  disabled  housing  grants are less than genuine and claims that housing affordability  has  been  helped  by  the now passed economic boom.  There is no recognition or acknowledgment from the Government of the crisis that affects, in one aspect or another, every family in the 26 counties.

"Sinn  Féin  believes  that  the  current absence of such a right to housing has resulted  in  a  relatively  weak  commitment  from  government and officials in addressing  the  housing  issue  and the increasing levels of homelessness.  The absence of such a constitutional protection for the right to housing has allowed the  government to get away with not acting in the interests of the homeless and others affected by the housing crisis.

"The  tabling  of  this  Constitutional  amendment  Bill  represents  the  first initiative in Sinn Féin's campaign to force the government to address this issue for  which  there  is widespread support ? for example:  A survey carried out on

behalf of the Simon Community proper to the 2002 General election found that 71% of  those  surveyed  support  the  inclusion  of  a  right  to  housing  in  the constitution.  Focus Ireland will also be launching their campaign on the "Right to a Home" this coming Thursday (13th).

"Sinn  Féin  rejects the Government's arguments that the inclusion of social and economic  rights  in  the Constitution is undemocratic.  We reject the assertion that  social  and  economic  policies are the sole prerogative of democratically elected and accountable politicians.

"The  Constitution  must  be  updated  to  include  what are now internationally recognised social and political rights.

"Sinn  Féin  believes that a rights-based approach ensures that a basic standard with respect to housing provision will be upheld and that the voiceless and most marginalized within our society will not be penalised by their lack of political strength or representation.

"A  constitutional  right  to  housing  would oblige statutory bodies to provide adequate and appropriate housing for all of the people of this State.

"Sinn  Féin  is  confident  that  an overwhelming majority of the people of this State  would  support  the  enshrinement  of  the  right  to housing in the 1937 Constitution.    We  hope  the  Government  will  accept  the  Bill  and  that a referendum  on  the  issue  will be brought before the people at an early date."ENDS

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