Today, June 26th, Deputy Broughan will introduce the Thirty-Ninth Amendment to the Constitution (Right to Housing) Bill 2019. The Bill seeks to amend Article 45 of the Constitution, the Directive Principles of Social Policy with the following insertion in Section 5 “The State recognises the common good as including the right to adequate and appropriate housing and shall guarantee that right through its laws, policies and the prioritisation of resources, with particular regard to children.”
Article 45 of Bunreacht Na hÉireann sets out the Directive Principles of Social Policy and states: “The principles of social policy set forth in this Article are intended for the general guidance of the Oireachtas. The application of those principles in the making of laws shall be the care of the Oireachtas exclusively, and shall not be cognisable by any Court under any of the provisions of this Constitution.” Deputy Broughan had examined the possibility of inserting the Right to Housing into Article 42A (Children), Article 41 (Family) but advocacy groups who were consulted during the drafting process had concerns that this route could be exclusionary to single homeless people. Sinn Féin’s recently defeated Right to Housing Bill sought to amend Article 43 (Private Property) and was not supported by the government or Fianna Fáil.
In 2011, the Central Statistics Office figures stated that there were 641 children experiencing homelessness. This figure has increased by around 500%, up to almost 3,800 in April 2019. During the summer of 2015, Deputy Broughan and his staff met with the Ombudsman for Children, Niall Muldoon and also then with representatives of the Children’s Rights Alliance, having contacted both in April of that year, to voice his concerns about the impact of the homeless crisis and particularly on children. At that time (his emails are dated the 24th of April 2015), there were 911 children being held in emergency homeless accommodation. During the week of the 22nd to 28th of April 2019, 4 years later, that number had risen to 3,794.
Deputy Broughan says “I have asked constant Parliamentary Questions to the Ministers for Housing (Tánaiste Simon Coveney and now Minister Eoghan Murphy), the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Katherine Zappone and raised the matter in Leaders’ Question with the Taoiseach (Of course, I have also often raised pertinent issues with other responsible Ministers such as supports for schools with pupils experiencing homelessness and access to mental health supports). I have raised Topical Issues matters and supported fellow opposition deputies in their attempts to bring about positive change. Of course, in February of this year, my Motion on homelessness was passed by Dáil Éireann (71 votes to 43). I have made endless representations to the Dublin City and Fingal County Council Managers, Deputy Managers and Housing Managers and I have spoken to suicidal constituents because of their housing situation. I have also met many of the young children I speak about and have seen the distress on their young faces about the lack of security and stability of having a forever home. Other methods have been tried and failed and we will be waiting some time before the Government give us a referendum on the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. In the meantime, my Bill would allow us to insert wording in to the Constitution to say that we have a right to housing, that particular regard must be given to children and it would fit into the section that is specifically for the Oireachtas to undertake. I certainly hope that the Bill will be accepted and passed by Dáil Éireann.”