On Thursday, the People Before Profit TD, Richard Boyd Barrett, introduced a motion to the Dáil which mandated the government to take the following actions:
*Declare the housing and homeless crisis an emergency
- Dramatically increases the supply of social and affordable (including cost rental) housing by increasing capital spending on housing to €2.3bn in budget 2019.
- Reduce the flow of adults and children into homelessness with emergency legislation to make it illegal for landlords, banks and investment funds to evict tenants and homeowners in mortgage distress into homelessness;
* Provide real security of tenure and real rent certainty by linking rent reviews to an index such as the Consumer Price Index and introducing measures to reduce the cost of rent;
* Introduce a target for ending long term homelessness and the need to sleep rough
- Hold a referendum to enshrine the Right to Housing in the Constitution
Dáil Eireann voted by 83 to 42, with one abstention, in support. Fine Gael and their millionaire friend, Michael Lowry, were totally isolated.
Speaking to the debate, Brid Smith TD called on Leo Varadkar to request members of his party who were landlords not to vote. They had a conflict of interest because the motion called for real rent controls. Varadkar refused to reply to this request.
The resolution passed because Fianna Fáil decided at the last moment to back it. The only reason they did so was because huge numbers had mobilised on the streets. More than 10,0000 people crowded into a rally in front of the Dail and their presence forced Ireland’s most opportunistic party to change its tune.
A week before the vote, Fianna Fáil had abstained on a vote of no confidence in Eoghan Murphy, the Minister responsible for the housing crisis. In the past, they voted against inserting a right to housing into the Irish constitution. They have also opposed a moratorium on evictions.
The only reason the Dail voted for serious measures to tackle the housing crisis was because of ‘people power’.
People Before Profit has been working for months to bring this about. We have been energetic participants of a broader coalition known as the National Housing and Homelessness Coalition. Our activists have also taken part in Take Back the City protest by occupying vacant houses.
This was a real example of what left wing politics are about – mobilising worker and students to bring change, rather than just relying on internal parliamentary manoeuvres.
But there is a catch.
Under the rules of Dáil Eireann, the government is not obliged to act on the very resolution they have been mandated to accept.
In other words, they can just ignore it.
This is totally undemocratic and we should not tolerate it. We should mobilise again in even bigger number to force them to change. If necessary we should shut down workplaces and colleges for a day.
And we should take Fr Peter McVerry’s words seriously when he said that in the next election we should VOTE OUT HOMELESSNESS.