Dr Dr Padraic Kenna, Director of the Centre for Housing Law, Rights and Policy, NUI Galway: Photo: Aengus McMahon
Oct 25 2017 Posted: 10:47 IST
 Council of Europe finds that Ireland violated the European Social Charter the right of the family to social, legal and economic protection.

The Council of Europe has today upheld a Collective Complaint that Ireland has violated Article 16 of the European Social Charter on the right of the family to social, legal and economic protection. Adequate housing is viewed as an integral element of this right.

The Council of Europe held that Ireland failed to take sufficient and timely measures to ensure the right to housing of an adequate standard for a significant number of families living in local authority housing, and therefore there is a violation of Article 16 of the Charter in this respect.

This Collective Complaint was facilitated by the Centre for Housing Law, Rights and Policy at NUI Galway, working in association with local tenants groups in the main cities, law centres and Non-Government Organisations, involved the submission of detailed evidence of housing conditions on local authority estates, with associated human rights standards. Some 90% of the estimated 130,000 Irish local authority tenant households live on estates.

Dr Padraic Kenna, Director of the Centre for Housing Law, Rights and Policy at NUI Galway today welcomed this landmark decision, saying: "We have been working with tenants groups, law centres, national and international human rights agencies, over the past five years. Our students at the University researched the European human rights norms. This decision marks a significant historical development, which could enhance the development of Irish State housing policy."

The Irish State does not support any national organisation of its tenants, who could be consulted or participate in framing legislation or housing policy, unlike almost every other European country. There was no opportunity, within Ireland, for these tenants to have the collective issues examined in any systematic way. They could submit this European Complaint only through other organisations. Many issues faced by Irish local authority tenants could be resolved by tenants associations.

Dr Kenna added: "Of course, nothing in this complaint was intended to diminish respect for the valuable and dedicated work of national and local authority housing professionals, or the committed work of voluntary and community groups and public representatives, who work tirelessly to improve the situation of local authority tenants in Ireland. This issue is more complex. State housing in Ireland generates a surplus after maintenance costs are deducted from rents. A recent report from the National Oversight and Audit Commission (NOAC) shows that local authorities generated a surplus of €40 million in 2014, from their housing, used to cross-subsidise other services."

The Council of Europe noted that complete statistics on the condition of local authority housing have not been collated since 2002. It also noted that a significant number of regeneration programmes have not been completed, leaving many local authority tenants in unacceptable housing conditions.

Significantly, housing standards for 30,000 tenants of approved housing bodies are now regulated by the Residential Tenancies Board, but there is no such regulation of State tenancies. Indeed, the State is both the landlord and the regulator on housing standards in local authority housing.

The Irish State must report to the Council of Europe within 12 months on how it has addressed this violation.

The full decision and a summary is available at: https://www.coe.int/en/web/turin-european-social-charter/-/the-decision-on-the-merits-of-the-complaint-fidh-v-ireland-is-now-public

Marketing and Communications Office, NUI Galway

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