Dublin City Council’s Assessment of Children’s Housing Challenged Before Supreme Court

Commission Exercises Amicus Role in the Supreme Court

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (“the Commission”) has today exercised its amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) function before the Supreme Court in a case, which seeks to clarify how separated parents exercising joint custody of their children are treated when applying for social housing assistance under the Housing Act 2009.

The case (Fagan v. Dublin City Council) centres on a separated father of three children, Mr. Fagan who sought social housing assistance to accommodate himself and his children. The Council assessed him as a one-person household for the purposes of the Housing Act, notwithstanding his  three-night per week custody and co-parenting rights to his children, and so regarded Mr. Fagan’s need as being for a single bedroom unit.

Mr. Fagan argued that, in contrast to many other local authorities, Dublin City Council would not even consider his eligibility for social housing with space for the children, let alone assess their level of need as a family unit. At the time he commenced his case, the children lived with their mother in hotel emergency accommodation.

In its legal submissions published today, the Commission argues that the approach taken by Dublin City Council to automatically exclude Mr. Fagan and his children from the definition of ‘household’ prevented them from being considered together for social housing eligibility.

In its submission the Commission cites rights under the Constitution (Article 42A) and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR Article 8) in relation to family life, parental and children’s rights, and the Council’s obligations as a public body to implement these rights.

The Commission further submitted to the Court that the Council’s decision to automatically exclude Mr Fagan and his children from the definition of ‘household’ under the Housing Act 2009 undermines their right to enjoy the care and company of both parents on an equal basis, and also means that they do not properly inform Government statistics of those in need of housing.

The Commission submitted that: “in refusing to recognise Mr. Fagan and the children as a household at all, it appears to the Commission that the relevant constitutional and ECHR rights have not been vindicated.”

Director of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Laurence Bond stated:

“This is not an isolated case, the Commission understands that a significant number of families are in a similar position as this family in Dublin City.

“In our involvement in this Supreme Court case, the Commission has emphasised the importance of ensuring that local authorities’ approaches to housing, are consistent, support family relationships and protect the rights of children.”

ENDS/

For further information, please contact:

Brian Dawson, IHREC Communications Manager,

01 8589601 / 087 0697095

bdawson@ihrec.ie

Follow us on twitter @_IHREC

Editor’s Note

The Commission’s full amicus curiae (‘friend of the court’) submissions to the Supreme Court in this case are available at the following link:

https://www.ihrec.ie/documents/fagan-v-dublin-city-council/

The amicus curiae function of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission.

The Commission’s functions under the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act 2014 include that of applying for liberty to appear as an amicus curiae (friend of the court) before the Superior Courts in proceedings that involve, or are concerned with, the human rights or equality rights of any person.

Section 10 of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act sets out the functions of the Commission and Section 10(2)(e) provides that the IHREC shall have a function:

“to apply to the High Court or the Supreme Court for liberty to appear before the High Court or the Supreme Court, as the case may be, as amicus curiae in proceedings before that Court that involve or are concerned with the human rights or equality rights of any person and to appear as such an amicus curiae on foot of such liberty being granted (which liberty each of the said courts is hereby empowered to grant in its absolute discretion).”

Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is an independent public body, appointed by the President and directly accountable to the Oireachtas. The Commission has a statutory remit set out under the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act (2014) to protect and promote human rights and equality in Ireland, and build a culture of respect for human rights, equality and intercultural understanding in the State.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is Ireland’s national human rights institution and is recognised as such by the United Nations. The Commission is also Ireland’s national equality body for the purpose of a range of EU anti-discrimination measures.

 

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