Cork city protest calls for referendum on right to housing

There are over 500 empty homes in Cork city alone
Cork city protest calls for referendum on right to housing

At a public meeting in Cork on Saturday, members of the National Homeless and Housing Coalition called for a national referendum on a constitutional right to housing. Protestors are pictured at a mural on South Main Street.

IRELAND'S housing crisis can only be solved by a national referendum on a constitutional right to housing, a rally in Cork was told on Saturday.

“We are calling for a referendum on the right to housing, and for public housing to be built on public land, by a publicly owned construction company,” Gary Baus of the National Homeless and Housing Coalition told The Echo before the rally.

"The Government has condemned whole generations to a lifetime of high rent with no chance of ever owning a home and at worst a life of housing insecurity and homelessness," Mr Baus said.

“We want an end to evictions, an end to repossessions, and we want to see an end to vulture funds in this country."

Frank O’Connor, who, alongside his partner Jude Sherry, is a prominent campaigner against dereliction and homelessness, said the rally was about raising awareness of the housing crisis.

“In Ireland, sadly, we have a broken social contract, where a very advanced civilised society can’t provide housing for everyone,” Mr O’Connor said.

“In Cork City alone, within a two-kilometre radius of the city centre, we have 500-plus empty homes, and it’s such a waste, and not just with the homelessness crisis in Ireland, but with refugees coming in as well, we really need to act quickly, and what I’m looking for is compulsory rental, where vacant properties can be opened up for rental.

“It’s an order that could be put through very quickly by the Government, where any any vacant property, the owner gets a fair rent, and the tenant gets a home,” Mr O’Connor said.

Jude Sherry said proactive action from local and national government was long overdue.

“The large scale of vacancy and dereliction we have in Ireland gives us a massive opportunity to provide safe harbour for all those seeking refuge in Ireland, and also for those in Ireland traumatised by our housing shortage,” Ms Sherry said.

'NOT GOOD ENOUGH'

Socialist TD For Cork North Central, Mick Barry, said Government was talking about “housing in the pipeline and jam tomorrow”, something he said was not good enough.

“There is a deadly combination of low pay and high rents, and we urgently need a €15-an-hour minimum wage, and we urgently need legislation which doesn’t just freeze rents, but actually cuts them, because they are at unreasonable, unjust levels,” Deputy Barry said.

City Councillor Ted Tynan said the arrival of thousands of Ukrainian refugees was exacerbating the housing crisis, and said urgent action was needed.

“Brussels and company need to get their act together and fund housing, not alone in Ireland but throughout Europe, because there are 100 million people in poverty in the European Union, and look at the money they’re spending on weapons of destruction,” Cllr Tynan said.

“Stop the war, let peace take over, through dialogue, and let’s build a decent Europe for all.” Cllr Tynan noted that in 1949, the Inter-Party Government of Fine Gael, Clann na Poblachta, Labour and others had commenced a massive social housing programme.

“If we were able to do that in 1949, immediately after World War II, when the country was broke, why can’t we do the same today?” Cllr Tynan asked.

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