Month: July 2017

Call for Right to Housing to be enshrined in the Constitution

“The right to housing in our constitution would be a positive, strong step for the future to create fundamental protection of home for every adult and every child”

On Thursday, 13th July 2017, members of the ESC Rights Initiatives such as the Mercy Law Resource Centre and the Simon Communities of Ireland participated in ‘A Right to Housing’ seminar in Trinity College Dublin, with Senator Collette Kelleher.

The focus of the seminar was the urgent call for the right to housing to be enshrined in the Irish Constitution. The seminar brought together international and national homeless experts, academics, journalists, civil society organisations, trade unions, employers, and constitutional and legal experts. The panel of speakers included Niamh Randall (Simon Communities of Ireland), Kitty Holland (The Irish Times), Dr Rory Hearne (NUI Maynooth), Karan O’Loughlin (SIPTU), Maeve Regan (Mercy Law Resource Centre), Professor Gerard Whyte (Trinity College Dublin), and Adrian Berry (Barrister, UK).

Each speaker, whilst discussing their area of expertise, outlined how important it is to have the right to housing included in the Irish Constitution and mapped out certain ways to achieve this. As each speaker took the podium the current homelessness crisis was highlighted by not only the rapidly increasing figures of homeless people in Ireland but also by harrowing stories of the experience of homelessness told by Kitty Holland, such as a mother forced to make her children’s lunches in the front seat of a car while her three children slept in the back seat.

Another item that was hugely emphasised was the legal and political struggles faced every day by individuals and organisations when attempting to resolve the crisis. As Maeve Regan noted, a legal argument cannot rely on a person’s right to adequate housing, rather their battle must rely on other rights such as the right to privacy, the right to family life, or right to bodily integrity. This makes it extremely hard for a person’s battle for housing to be legally successful.

“A right to housing in the Constitution would mean that the courts could look at the State decision or policy as to whether it was ‘proportionate’ by reference to the right. It would mean that Government and State policies and actions would have to respect the right. Legislation and policy would have to be ‘proofed’ to ensure they reasonably protect the right to housing. It would mean that the policies in relation to housing and homelessness could not be on a political whim but would have this grounding, this obligation to respect the right to housing. It would be an enduring protection.”

Karan O’Loughlin highlighted one of the main issues contributing to the crisis by comparing the national average rent per month with the minimum monthly wage. The national average rent is €1131 and the minimum monthly wage when working 30 hours a week is €1110, meaning that after a person has paid rent they are left with 21 euro for the month. With a Constitutional right to housing, there may be scope to challenge the unsustainable rent increases; the current legal framework however provides little scope to bring such a challenge.

Overall, the event marked the beginning of an alliance of people from a multitude of backgrounds, all with the common goal of establishing a basic floor of protection which would require the State to consider the right to housing and balance it with other rights when formulating policy and law. This would not mean a key to a house for all but rather it would be the first step in abolishing the crisis that currently exists in Ireland.

The Social Charter, a Social Constitution for Europe?

The Council of Europe has produced this film with the aim of promoting the European Social Charter. This is a new way of communicating about human rights. The film implies that the implementation of the Charter contributes to the quality of people’s everyday life. It shows this through images of positive everyday situations, reflecting circumstances in which social rights are fully effective.

At a time when these fundamental rights are under pressure or even at risk, this treaty guarantees day-to-day human needs: work; health; housing; education; social security and protection, welfare services. The film suggests that implementing this Social Constitution of Europe therefore means ensuring dignity, bringing people together, contributing to their individual and collective wellbeing, as well as leading to social cohesion, peace and economic development.

The film has been made in the framework of the Turin process for the European Social Charter, an initiative launched by Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland in 2014 to reinforce the Charter, one of the key priorities of his mandate.

The film can be downloaded: long version and short version.

A Right to Housing Seminar with Mercy Law Resource Centre

One active member of the ESC Rights initiative, the Mercy Law Resource Centre,  with Senator Colette Kelleher (Independent – Civil Engagement Group) and Simon Community invite you to a A Right to Housing Seminar!

· Date: Thursday, July 13th, 2017

· Time: 10.00am – 2.00pm

· Venue: Emmet Theatre, Trinity Conference Centre, Trinity College Dublin.

This seminar will bring together key stakeholders to outline the importance of a constitutional right to housing and to map out the next steps that could be taken, working collectively, to advance the right to housing from a policy, legislative and constitutional perspective.  Speakers  to date are:

· Kitty Holland, The Irish Times.
· Rory Hearne, NUI Maynooth.
· Karen McLoughlin, SIPTU.
· Niamh Randall, Simon Communities.
· Maeve Regan, Mercy Law Resource Centre.
· Professor Gerry Whyte, Trinity College Dublin.

To register for this free event please RSVP to communications@simoncommunity.com by Monday July 10th. For further information please contact 01 671 1606.

The Council of Europe campaigns to reinforce social rights in Europe

On 29 and 30 June 2017, the Conference of the International NGOs at the Council of Europe and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) adopted both statements to support the strengthening of Social Rights in Europe. PACE adopted a resolution on “The ‘Turin process’: reinforcing social rights in Europe”.

The so-called “Turin process” was launched by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe in 2014 and aims at strengthening fundamental rights in Europe, especially the better implementation of the European Social Charter of the Council of Europe into European Union law.

In its latest resolution, PACE now states that “social rights are fundamental human rights” which should be granted to all citizens. The parliamentarians are concerned about the lack of compliance with social rights standards as outlined in the European Social Charter in different European states, but also in EU legislation. Unfortunately no Irish TDs participated to the Vote.

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PACE parliamentarians and International NGOs (see communiqué below) call upon EU policy and law makers to incorporate the European Social Charter into the European Pillar of Social Rights to improve common bench-marking and coordination of social rights within Europe. With regards to complaint mechanisms, the resolution calls for a strengthening of the collective complaints mechanism linked to the European Social Charter.

Thanks to participatory status at the Council of Europe, many INGOs are able to launch complaints at the European Committee of Social Rights in cases of possible non-compliance with the European Social Charter. Currently a complaint submitted by FIDH is focusing on housing conditions in Council Estates in Ireland.

 

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