The ESC Rights Initiative is dismayed to learn of the dilution of the recommendations of the 8th Constitutional Convention Report on Economic Social and Cultural Rights in the programme for government. The Constitutional Convention recommended by 85% that the Constitution be amended to strengthen the protection of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

In January of 2016 the Government announced that it would refer the Report to an Oireachtas committee for further consideration. However, the programme for government appears now to be separating out these rights by referring the matter of housing rights to the oireachtas committee on housing.

We welcome the recognition in the programme for government that ‘the eighth report of the Constitutional Convention on economic, social and cultural rights recommended that the State progressively realise economic, social and cultural rights subject to maximum available resources, that this duty be recognisable by the courts’ but we are concerned that only ‘specific additional rights on housing be inserted into the Constitution.’

The ESC Rights Initiative is also concerned about the following statement: ‘Due to the substantial questions raised on the balance of rights, proper governance and resources, we will refer this report to the new Oireachtas Committee on Housing for consideration.’ This implies that the focus of this consideration is purely on housing rather than the totality of economic, social and cultural rights as addressed in the Constitutional Convention report.

The ESC Rights Initiative and the Constitutional Convention recognise that there is no hierarchy of rights; that all rights are indivisible and deserving of equal protection – the rights of people with mental health issues or those experiencing poverty because of inadequate income are also deserving of protection.

The ESC Rights Initiative calls on government to implement the Constitutional Convention recommendation by inserting the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights into Bunreacht na hEireann. Should further discussion be necessary the matter should be referred in its entirety to an appropriate Oireachtas Committee.