Socio-Economic Rights, the Constitution and the ECHR Act 2003: O’Donnell v South Dublin County Council in the Supreme Court

Supreme CourtThis note is based on MacMenamin J.’s decision, available here. SCOIRL have a succinct post on the outcome in this case. A decision was also given by McKechnie J, and is not yet available. However, I understand that McKechnie J. came to the same conclusion, albeit for different reasons. With thanks to Patricia Brazil for providing me with a copy of the available decision. As this is a longer post that usual, you can find a copy of this post here.

The Context

On Friday, 13 March 2015, the Supreme Court gave an important decision in the case of O’Donnell v South Dublin County Council (not yet on courts.ie, Irish Times report here). The case revolved around the statutory duties upon South Dublin County Council (SDCC) in the area of housing and Traveller accommodation. The High Court, in a number of cases: Doherty v SDCC (2007), O’Donnell v SDCC (2007) (Laffoy J.) and O’Donnell v SDCC (2008) (Edwards J) (discussed here, pp 13-14), considered the duties of local authorities under Irish housing law and the impact of the ECHR Act 2003. The Irish Supreme Court have been exceptionally conservative when it has come to interpreting the Constitution as providing any form of socio-economic rights duties on the State.

The European Court of Human Rights has been reluctant to interfere with decisions of state/local housing authorities in the housing law arena. The ECtHR has stated that Article 3 and Article 8 ECHR cannot be interpreted as providing a duty on the State to provide everybody with a home, unless there are very exceptional circumstances at play (see, M.S.S. v Belgium and Greece, discussed in detail here).

The decision on Friday, 13 March 2015 in O’Donnell v South Dublin County Council provides at least a signal, that in very exceptional circumstances, legislative duties coupled with constitutional/ECHR rights may protect socio-economic rights. However, as will become clear below, the decision has not resulted in the provision of accommodation to Ellen (or other members of the O’Donnell family) and Ellen continues to live in accommodation that is inhuman and degrading. Continue reading “Socio-Economic Rights, the Constitution and the ECHR Act 2003: O’Donnell v South Dublin County Council in the Supreme Court”

Socio-Economic Rights, the Constitution and the ECHR Act 2003: O’Donnell v South Dublin County Council in the Supreme Court

UL Seminar: The Ethics of 'Home': Direct Provision, Homelessness and Ireland's Housing Policies

The Ethics of Home Direct Provision, Homelessness and Ireland's Housing PoliciesThe President of Ireland has asked the seven Universities, along with DIT, to further the discourse on ethics through hosting events across the campuses in the Academic Year 2013/2014. It is expected that these events will culminate in an event hosted at Áras an Uachtaráin towards the end of 2014. The aim is to enhance awareness of ethical responsibility in the professions and in the public domain, and to engage young people in the debate on ethical standards.  The key objective is to enhance community engagement with ethics issues at the local level and nationally.

In rising to this challenge, on Tuesday, 24 June 2014, Dr Ronni Greenwood is organising and chairing an event titled: The Ethics of ‘Home’: Direct Provision, Homelessness and Ireland’s Housing Policies. This seminar will take place in The Exhibition Area, Limerick City Hall from 12.30pm to 2.30pm. Registration is required, and those interested in attending should email Niamh O’Sullivan on niamh.Osullivan@ul.ie or by calling 061-234607. The full programme is as follows:

  • Dr Eoin O’Sullivan (TCD): “Institutions and the Production of Homelessness: Ethics, Service Provision and the Representation of Homelessness”
  • Dr Liam Thornton (UCD): “The Rights of Others: Asylum Seekers and Direct Provision in Ireland”
  • Dr Daithi Downey (DRHE): Reframing Housing Values Towards an Ethical Housing Policy”

 

UL Seminar: The Ethics of 'Home': Direct Provision, Homelessness and Ireland's Housing Policies

Removal from Public Housing: Pinnock, Powell and the Future of s.62, Housing Act 1966

In Ireland as in the United Kingdom one of the areas in which the transposition of the European Convention on Human Rights into domestic law (ECHR Act 2003 (Ire); HRA 1998 (UK)) has given rise to intense litigation is that of public housing and, more particularly, the removal of individuals from public authority housing. This relates particularly to Article 8 of the Convention, which (among other things) protects one’s right to enjoy one’s home subject only to lawful and proportionate interference by the State. This morning the UK Supreme Court handed down a judgment in Powell that clarifies the position in the UK when it comes to Article 8, the HRA 1998 and removal from public housing. In this post I want to briefly outline the chronology of the UK developments and then consider their potential relevance in Ireland.

Continue reading “Removal from Public Housing: Pinnock, Powell and the Future of s.62, Housing Act 1966”

Removal from Public Housing: Pinnock, Powell and the Future of s.62, Housing Act 1966

Human Rights Lexicon: Wall on the Right to Housing

We are delighted to welcome this guest contribution from Dr Illan Rua Wall of Oxford Brookes University. You can find out more about Illan on the guest contributors page. This is the second contribution to our Human Rights Lexicon and in this post Illan considers radical responses to the right to housing.

Radical Social Responses to the Right to Housing

Ireland is in the middle of a catastrophized recession. This will come as no surprise to anyone in Ireland, though perhaps it is not known as well internationally as one might think. One of the crucial features of the time leading up to the boom was the activity of the property developers, the ‘risk-taking’ darlings of the neo-liberal miracle. The developers built and built, while prices and availability of cheap credit grew. Until one day it all fell apart and the Irish economy collapsed into a heap on the floor. What was once ‘prime residential’ housing, is now a ‘toxic’ asset. A crucial feature of the post-crash Irish landscape is the presence of vacant or half-built houses and apartments. The question I want to address here is what those radicals concerned with social justice in Ireland should do in the face of this landscape. To get to the point, I would like to go back and point towards an alternate historiography which reveals that rights have been used in truly radical demands and assertions. This is necessary to challenge the (neo)liberal hegemony that rights are ultimately a relation to the state, and that the economy/market is the necessary determinant of policy. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, questions of property are key. Continue reading “Human Rights Lexicon: Wall on the Right to Housing”

Human Rights Lexicon: Wall on the Right to Housing

NAMA and the Right to Housing?

Focus Ireland
Focus Ireland
Threshold

NAMA, as Irish readers will know all too well, is the proposed National Asset Management Agency. To grossly simplify the story (we are not economists here at HRinI, as far as I know) NAMA will manage the property-related bad loans (considerable) of Irish banks – the hangover of our ill-fated construction boom. Where necessary, it will acquire the ‘distressed assets’ against which the loans are secured and re-use or re-sell the land to realise its value.  The idea is that cleansing Irish ‘zombie banks’ of toxic debt will kick-start lending, which will in turn facilitate fresh growth in the economy. The proposal is scarcely uncontroversial. The Irish Human Rights Commission recently highlighted the human rights impact of the economic downturn in its Annual Report. Some important questions are beginning to be asked about the policy context of NAMA, and its – largely unexplored – potential to work towards the benefit of our poorest citizens; in particular, the 56,000 people on housing waiting lists.

To that end, today’s Irish Times carries a short interview with Joyce Loughnan, the chief executive of Focus Ireland; an organisation which advocates on behalf of people who are out of home. Focus Ireland has lobbied the Government and the Opposition on the inclusion of a housing agency in the proposed NAMA scheme and has published a very interesting policy document on NAMA. Ms Loughnan – noting the gross inadequacies of existing government leasing schemes which aimed to reduce homelessness –  said:

It is absolutely inconceivable that the Government would dedicate €60 billion of taxpayers’ money to an organisation that then didn’t deliver a social return. It’s not just for schools and childcare centres, but it should be taking advantage of those empty homes we have been speaking about and land that can be developed for future social services.

In a similar vein, Threshold, which advocates for the housing rights of the socially excluded, yesterday called for NAMA property to be used to provide public housing, to alleviate the difficulties experienced by vulnerable citizens for whom private rental is not appropriate.  Threshold’s chairperson, Aileen Hadyn, said that

“Rather than selling off these properties to the first carpet-bagger that opens their cheque book, the Government should take a look at the property portfolios and identify those that could be retained to meet housing needs.”

The taxpayer, she added, was paying for this property anyway.

NAMA and the Right to Housing?