The Taoiseach, Deputy Varadkar, must issue a public apology to homeless families, children and individuals. The Taoiseach’s dishonesty is breathtaking, and he and his Government are homelessness deniers. He deliberately and dishonestly abused an OECD report to deny and downplay the housing and homelessness emergency. The OECD report specifically states that its findings must not be used for comparison purposes. The statistics are not and never were comparable from one country to another. Into the bargain, the statistics are two years old. The Taoiseach must be called out on this issue and must do the decent thing and issue an apology.
Fr. Peter McVerry said today, and I agree with him, that the only solution to this problem of homelessness is to build social housing at a very intensive rate. It is quite obvious that this House and this Government are all talk and very little action. The Government is obviously not doing enough and will continue to put its faith in the private market, which has been a disaster for families. What will the Government’s coalition partner do about this issue? I refer to Fianna Fáil. Fianna Fáil’s hands are dirty on this issue and they are getting dirtier with every day. It has a supply-and-confidence arrangement with the Government and is keeping it in power. Fianna Fáil has a responsibility to sort out the housing issue once and for all and ensure that the Government builds large-scale local authority housing.
I will support the Bill but the hypocrisy of the Labour Party on this issue is monumental. It was in government for five years and has made the housing and homelessness crisis worse. During those five years, it held the housing portfolio at Minister of State and senior ministerial level and made matters worse.
It is now obvious that major demonstrations of people power will be necessary to ensure that this issue is solved and that large-scale social and affordable housing is built. I also call on the trade union movement to call a one-day general strike on this issue to ensure it is treated with the seriousness it deserves.
Deputy Seamus Healy calls on management in the Boston Scientific Plant in Clonmel to accept a Labour Court recommendation recognising the right of workers in the Medical Devices facility to trade union representation.
The Labour Court has ruled in favour of workers in this facility being allowed to be represented by their union for the purposes of collectively bargaining on pay and working conditions. However, management has refused to implement the recommendation.
Many Boston Scientific Employees joined SIPTU following an attempt by management to unfairly deduct 20% from their shift pay. Management attempted to make this cut despite many of the workers earning less than the living wage of €11.70 per hour.
Organised in their union, the workers fought back against this attack, with more than 400 signing a petition indicating their opposition to the move. The company backed down and issued an apology to the workers.
However, new entrants are still on low pay, earning approximately €22,000 yearly. Other workers have endured a pay cap that has meant they have not received a pay rise in seven years.
It is now well beyond time that the union was recognised and industrial relations in the company put on a reasonable basis.
I again call on Boston Scientific to show respect for their employees as human beings and to grant them trade union recognition.
I will be supporting the workers on the streets of Clonmel this week on Friday 10th November and Saturday 11th November asking the public to sign a Petition supporting the call for Trade Union recognition.
Seamus Healy T.D.
Tel: 087 2802199
Tracker Mortgage Scandal
Healy Tells Taoiseach To Send In The Garda Fraud Squad.
At Leader’s Questions to Taoiseach Varadkar on Wednesday 25th October Deputy Seamus Healy said
“During Leaders Questions on 5 April this year I raised the issue of tracker mortgage fraud with the then Taoiseach, Deputy Enda Kenny and I told him what has been appearing in the media in recent weeks.
I did not have a whistle-blower within the banking system but, rather, a healthy suspicion of senior bankers backed up by 30 years of banking scandals and rip-offs such as the DIRT scandal, the Ansbacher accounts, the bogus non-resident accounts and the destruction of the country by the banks during the boom-bust period.
I knew, as did every Irish citizen, that the banks and senior bankers have no moral compass.
The tracker mortgage fraud is a huge scandal that requires criminal investigation.
I asked the former Taoiseach, Deputy Enda Kenny, to make a formal complaint to the Garda and call in the fraud squad to investigate banks. I told him that any delay in ordering a Garda investigation could lead to the destruction or alteration or both of relevant records with a view to blaming subordinates and junior staff. In an effort to protect the banks and senior bankers, he refused to call in the Garda.
Six months later, all Members can see the extent of the massive fraud involving 15 banks and €1 billion and affecting 20,000 or more mortgage holders. It is abundantly clear that the scandal involves collusion by the banks in a systemic and widespread fraud.
It is a scandal that the Garda has still not been sent into the banks and that no formal complaint has been made to it.
Does the Taoiseach accept that if the then Taoiseach, Deputy Kenny, had agreed to my demand six months ago to send the fraud squad into the banks, much fraud could have been avoided and much trauma, pain and even deaths and self-harm prevented?
Will the Taoiseach at long last send in the Garda Fraud Squad today in order that senior bankers can be held to account? Does he accept that until senior bankers are made subject to the normal criminal fraud law, more people will become victims of this kind of bank crime?”
Seamus Healy T.D.
Tel: 087 2802199
“That Dáil Éireann:notes that:
— Article 40.3.1° of the Constitution of Ireland states that the State guarantees in its laws to respect and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate the personal rights of the citizen;
— Article 40.3.2° of the Constitution of Ireland states that the State shall, in particular, by its laws protect as best it may from unjust attack and, in the case of injustice done, vindicate the life, person, good name, and property rights of every citizen;
— Article 43.1.1° of the Constitution of Ireland states that the State acknowledges that man, in virtue of his rational being, has the natural right, antecedent to positive law, to the private ownership of external goods;
— Article 43.1.2° of the Constitution of Ireland states that the State accordingly guarantees to pass no law attempting to abolish the right of private ownership or the general right to transfer, bequeath, and inherit property;
— Article 43.2.1° of the Constitution of Ireland states that the State recognises, however, that the exercise of the rights mentioned in the foregoing provisions of this Article ought, in civil society, to be regulated by the principles of social justice; and
— Article 43.2.2° of the Constitution of Ireland states that the State, accordingly, may as occasion requires delimit by law the exercise of the said rights with a view to reconciling their exercise with the exigencies of the common good;
— the importance of the provisions that require protection of private property to be regulated by the principles of social justice and, accordingly, that the State may as occasion requires, such as the current housing and homelessness emergency, delimit by law the exercise of the said rights with a view to reconciling their exercise with the exigencies of the common good;
— the statement of the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government in the Irish Examiner on 11th May, 2016, as follows: ‘I think we have a national emergency that needs a response that is comprehensive and so I have been working late hours trying to start the process of putting that response together’;
— the call for the declaration of a national housing emergency by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and the Peter McVerry Trust;
— the recent statement by the Jesuit Centre For Faith and Justice, as follows: ‘As we mark the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, we need to recognise that housing deprivation is one of the most serious forms of poverty in the Ireland of today and that in recent years the housing system has become the locus of some of the deepest inequality evident in our society…the Jesuit Centre is calling for a new direction for housing policy in Ireland, one based on recognising that housing is a fundamental human right’; and
— that a legislative precedent for declaring a national emergency exists in the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Acts of 2009, 2013 and 2015;
affirms that during the current emergency in housing and homelessness, the State is entitled to delimit by law the exercise of private property rights; and
calls on the Government to bring forward legislation affirming that a national housing emergency exists and, while that housing emergency exists and in order to end that emergency as quickly as possible, the State is enabled to bring forward measures which, in the public interest, impinge on private property rights in matters relating to housing provision in accordance with Articles 43.2.1° and 43.2.2° of the Constitution of Ireland in the matter of the exercise of private property rights.”
I am sharing time with Deputy Catherine Murphy. I welcome the opportunity to move this Private Members’ motion, which calls for the declaration of a housing emergency in order to: tackle the housing and homelessness crisis; stop banks, vulture funds and buy-to-let landlords from evicting families; stop repossessions; freeze, control and reduce rents; and entitle sitting tenants to continue their tenancies in sale situations, among other measures.
There is no doubt that this country is in the throes of a housing and homelessness emergency. The Peter McVerry Trust put it starkly when it said, “The crisis is behind us and we have moved into a full-blown emergency.” That housing emergency is getting worse. There are now 3,048 children in emergency accommodation, up from 2,973 in July 2017. This is an increase of 29% since August 2016. The total homeless population is now well over 8,000 people. Over 90,000 families are on local authority housing waiting lists and in excess of another 20,000 families are on housing assistance payments, a scheme which is a disaster for families and a bonanza for landlords. Thousands more are homeless, couch-surfing or doubling or trebling up with relatives. Sadly, we have seen deaths on our streets.
This housing emergency cannot be fully ended until huge numbers of social and affordable houses are built by local authorities. That will take time but tens of thousands of people are enduring a nightmare now. Thousands of children are being damaged now, as we speak here this evening. Irish society is treating these citizens cruelly. The short-term measures being used by the Government are, at best, grossly inadequate. The situation is getting worse. While it continues, this is not a civilised society. That is why much more far-reaching measures are necessary merely to stabilise the situation, that is, to stop the housing and homelessness emergency from getting even worse. Stronger emergency measures are needed to eradicate homelessness and end the housing emergency.
This motion seeks to avail of the existing provisions of Bunreacht na hÉireann to declare a housing emergency and to delimit private property rights on a temporary basis until the housing emergency is ended. Article 43.2.1° of Bunreacht na hÉireann makes the exercise of private property rights subject “to be regulated by the principles of social justice”. Article 43.2.2° goes even further, making the exercise of these rights subject to the exigencies of the common good. This motion does not attempt in any way to insert any new provision into or amend any existing provision of Bunreacht na Éireann. There is already an existing and current precedent in Irish law which can be utilised in accordance with these articles of Bunreacht na hÉireann in addressing the housing emergency. The precedent exists in the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Acts 2009, 2013 and 2015. Those Acts are currently on the books and in operation. The private property rights of pensioners were delimited under this legislation. The current leader of the Labour Party and former Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Howlin, confirmed that to me during the course of that legislation. Speaking to the Select Sub-committee on Public Expenditure and Reform on 10 November 2015 he said, and his words are worth quoting:
The bottom line is I agree with the thrust of what Deputy Healy said about pensions being a preserved property right. That has been determined by the courts. That is why we have taken very careful advices from the Attorney General, of which some have already been tested in the courts. The criteria required, as I have put on the record before, are that to sustain pension [reductions in a] contribution to [the emergency], [and the next line is very important] there needs to be an emergency which needs to be certified. The contribution must be one towards addressing that emergency. It needs to be proportionate in terms of the person’s income and it needs to be non-discriminatory. In other words, one cannot say that a category of people should be deprived of a pension and that another category should not. It has to have general application.
I believe the criteria set out by Deputy Howlin are met by the motion I am proposing. It is quite clear that during the current emergency in housing and homelessness, the State is entitled to delimit by law the exercise of private property rights in accordance with “the principles of social justice” and “the exigencies of the common good”. Furthermore, it is also quite clear that the country is in the throes of a housing and homelessness emergency. As far back as May 2016, the then Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Coveney, confirmed his belief that a housing emergency existed. He said, “I think we have a national emergency that needs a response that is comprehensive.” Of course, the position has gotten much worse since then.
The Irish Congress of Trade Unions, the largest civil society organisation in the country, also believes there is a housing emergency and has called for the declaration of such in its ten-point housing programme entitled “How We Can Solve the Housing Crisis”. Point 1 of that programme states that, “to facilitate a rapid, coherent response, Government should declare a national housing and homelessness emergency and move to put in place a properly resourced, local authority-led emergency social housing programme.” That call was also supported by Patricia King, general secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and by Karan O’Loughlin, campaigning officer of SIPTU. The Peter McVerry Trust also acknowledged such an emergency and called for emergency measures, stating that the emergency powers needed to deliver actions that will immediately reduce the numbers of homeless individuals, couples and families must now be introduced.
It is clear that a housing emergency exists in this State. All the advocacy groups and all those involved in supporting the homeless and housing organisations believe so. They believe it has become much more difficult and that the situation has got worse over the last years. It is also clear that emergency measures are needed to address the situation and that it is possible to legally declare a housing emergency in accordance with the precedent in law which I outlined earlier. It is further clear that private property rights can be delimited in accordance with Articles 43.2.1° and 43.2.2° of Bunreacht na hÉireann.
I ask for the support of all Deputies in the House in respect of this motion, especially backbenchers of all parties, who know the situation at first hand.
These Deputies are dealing with this situation at the coalface in their clinics on a daily and weekly basis and they know that the situation is getting worse and that what I am proposing is the only legal, commonsense and effective way forward in terms of solving the homeless and housing emergency that exists in this State.