On Sunday, 23 February the Constitutional Convention voted overwhelmingly in favour of amending the Constitution to strengthen the protection of economic, social and cultural rights. 85% of the delegates voted in favour of increased protection of these rights in the Constitution. The majority also voted for the strongest possible protection option – of inserting a provision in the Constitution that the State shall progressively realise economic, social and cultural rights, subject to maximum available resources and that this duty is cognisable by the courts, i.e. that the courts can consider and adjudicate on these rights.
The Convention also voted that, along with a general protection provision, specific economic, social and cultural rights should be expressly stated in the Constitution. Those specific rights include the right to housing, with 84% of the Convention voting in favour of including that right in the Constitution.
The other specific rights that the Convention voted in favour of including in the Constitution are: social security, essential health care, rights of people with disabilities, linguistic and cultural rights and the rights covered in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
Background to Convention vote
The Constitutional Convention had met at the weekend, 22 and 23 February, to consider whether to recommend to the Government that economic, social and cultural rights should be incorporated into the Constitution. The right to housing is currently not protected in our Constitution nor in legislation. The right to housing is one that is within the category, as recognised in international human rights law, of economic, social and cultural rights.
Economic, social and cultural rights are currently protected in a very limited manner in the Constitution. The Convention heard from academic experts Dr Liam Thornton, Aoife Nolan and David Fennelly on what economic, social and cultural rights are, how they are protected in the Constitution, and models from other jurisdictions of how these rights are incorporated into national constitutions. These concise, clear reports are available on the Human Rights in Ireland website: http://humanrights.ie/children-and-the-law/the-constitutional-convention-briefing-papers-on-economic-social-cultural-rights/
The Convention on the Constitution is a forum of 100 people, representative of Irish society and parliamentarians from the island of Ireland, with an independent Chairman. The Convention was established by resolution of both Houses of the Oireachtas to consider and make recommendations on certain topics as possible future amendments to the Constitution. The Government has undertaken to respond to the Convention’s recommendations within four months by way of debates in the Oireachtas and where it agrees with a particular recommendation to amend the Constitution, to include a timeframe for a referendum. For more information on the Convention and its workings, see www.constitution.ie.
An important step towards a constitutional right to housing and ending homelessness
The inclusion of these rights in our Constitution would greatly strengthen the protection of Irish citizens who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. MLRC is a member of the Economic Social and Cultural Rights Initiative, which includes Amnesty International Ireland and Focus Ireland. MLRC welcomes the Convention’s decision as an important positive step towards a constitutional right to housing.
All information provided on this Blog is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or a legal contract between this Blog and any person or entity unless otherwise specified. Click here to read more.