Deputy Pringle’s  Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Bill reached second stage debate in the Dáil yesterday seeking to enshrine economic, social and cultural rights also known as ESC rights in the Constitution by way of referendum.

The Bill references a range of fundamental human rights including the right to housing, healthcare, education and the right to earn a decent living.

Speaking in support of Deputy Pringle’s Bill and in particular on the right to housing, Peter McVerry of Peter McVerry Trust says “the right to housing is the most basic fundamental human right, because without proper housing, the other basic human rights are inaccessible: a person will not eat properly, their health will deteriorate and they will find it almost impossible to access education or employment”.

Aiden Lloyd, Chair of the ESC Rights Initiative said ”It is important that citizen consultative processes, such as the Constitutional Convention are followed through on, if we are to retain the confidence of the electorate in the democratic process, and we call on all parties, and individual members, to support measures to progress the recommendations of the Convention. ” (full text here).

Deputy Pringle states that “in the time since Fine Gael voted down this Bill when I first introduced it in 2014, an escalating housing crisis has emerged never seen before in this country. We’re also witnessing a continuing decline in access to healthcare services including mental health, access to educational and disability supports including basic social welfare payments. Workers’ wages including their pay and conditions are being eroding over time while wealth inequality is increasing”.

“Fine Gael’s ongoing commercialisation of state services has left a policy deficit where private entities have stepped in to fill the void. We saw this with the housing market while Fine Gael halted social housing development which allowed the private sector to take over. The over-reliance on the market to ‘kick in’ hasn’t worked and has in fact left many people extremely vulnerable.
“It’s time for the Government to rights-proof decision making and bring the rights of the individual to the core of policy-making. Only then can we address the ongoing crisis in this country and prevent any reoccurrence of the same in the future. The Constitutional Convention overwhelmingly voted for further protection of these rights in the constitution by 85% but was dropped from Fine Gael’s agenda” says Pringle.

Peter McVerry furthermore stated that “the Government’s primary responsibility is to ensure that everyone has their basic human rights provided and hence the right to housing should be the most important priority for Government. Inserting the right to housing in the Constitution is an expression of a society’s values and of its commitment to meeting those priorities. The refusal to insert the right to housing in the Constitution sends a message to all those who are homeless, or waiting on housing, that their needs are not a priority”.

To conclude, Deputy Pringle and three members of the ESC Rights Initiative (Brid O’Brien, Peter McVerry and Aiden Lloyd) have repeated their call on the Government to support the ESC Rights Bill as it progresses through to second stage debate in the Dáil.

Media coverage:

Irish TimesOcean FMHighland Radio