Human Rights and Equality Commission Challenges Government to Acknowledge Responsibility on Housing Rights

Report to Council of Europe States Government Should End Opt-Out on Key Provisions of the European Social Charter

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (“the Commission”) has today challenged the State to drop its opposition to provisions of the European Social Charter (the Charter) which acknowledge the State’s responsibility to promote access to housing of an adequate standard, to prevent and reduce homelessness with a view to its gradual elimination, and to make the price of housing accessible to those without adequate resources.

The Revised European Social Charter is a binding human rights treaty that Ireland ratified in 2000.  In the Commission’s report to the Council of Europe on the State’s implementation of the Charter, the State’s continuing opt-out on Article 31(1-3) is highlighted alongside other Irish opt-outs on aspects of childcare services, workers’ rights, and the rights of working mothers.

Furthermore the Commission has reiterated its call on the State to deliver on enshrining socio-economic rights, including the right to housing, in the Constitution of Ireland.

Dr. Frank Conaty Acting Chief Commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission stated:

“Housing is not a commodity, it’s a place where children learn and grow, where families gather and nurture each other, and where generations should feel safe and secure.”

“As efforts continue to form a new Government and we seek to move beyond COVID restrictions, it is a time to look at inequality in our society, to challenge why it exists and to take necessary steps to allow people in Ireland to live, learn, and work in dignity, and to be shown respect in how they are treated.”

“The choices of any new Government will be an indicator of the State’s commitment to harness all available resources towards the fulfilment of its economic, social, and cultural rights obligations.”

The Commission addresses issues under the headings of four specific complaints against Ireland. These complaints have been identified by the Council of Europe as its focus for this periodic review of Ireland’s performance.

Under these restricted headings, the Commission:

  • Sets out that the State has failed to take timely and effective action to address the inadequate conditions in social housing and to ensure access to housing supply. The Commission points to a survey led by the Community Action Network of the conditions of 13 local authority housing areas revealing the persistent problems of mould, damp, lack of heating, sewage issues, rodent infestations, and overcrowded conditions that the residents of surveyed housing estates experience. There is now a significant gap between the demand for social housing and the available local authority housing stock.
  • Points to the chronic lack of provision of Traveller-specific accommodation, persistent underspend by local authorities on Traveller-specific accommodation, the conditions of Traveller accommodation, and the experiences of Travellers in the private rental sector. The effect of these inadequate conditions on the health of Travellers became more pronounced recently due to the threat of Covid-19.
  • Calls on the State to remove the complete abolition of members of An Garda Síochána’s right to strike in order to bring the current legislative framework into conformity with the right to organise and the right to bargain collectively provisions of the Charter.
  • Calls on the State to remove the complete prohibition against military representative associations from joining national employees’ organisations in order to bring the current law into conformity with the right to organise provisions of the Charter.


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Notes to editor:

The full submission to the Council of Europe is available at the following link:

Comments on Ireland’s 17th National Report on the Implementation of the European Social Charter

The Government of Ireland submitted its 17th National Report to the European Committee of Social Rights on the implementation of the European Social Charter in December 2019.

This Commission report responds to that State report and its specific update on its response to four collective complaints:

  • Collective Complaint 83/2012: European Confederation of Police (EuroCOP) v. Ireland
  • Collective Complaint 100/2013: European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) v. Ireland
  • Collective Complaint 110/2014: International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) v. Ireland
  • Collective Complaint 112/2014: European Organisation of Military Associations (EUROMIL) v. Ireland

The European Social Charter

The Revised European Social Charter is a binding human rights treaty that Ireland ratified in 2000 (replacing the State’s accession to an earlier European Social Charter that had been ratified in 1964).

The Charter sets out legal standards in economic, social and cultural human rights, in areas such as housing and accommodation, education, social welfare and protection, and in employment. It also protects vulnerable groups such as children, people with disabilities and older people. It is the Council of Europe’s counterpart for economic, social and cultural rights to the European Convention on Human Rights.

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.