We salute the social activists who have staged a sit-in at Apollo House in order to provide immediate help to homeless people while at the same time highlighting the crisis in housing that is sweeping the 26 Counties. Their actions are in stark contrast to Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil who have cynically used the issue of exorbitant rents imposed on tenants by unscrupulous land lords to score cheap political points against each other without doing anything to provide practical assistance to people facing homelessness.
In the past local authorities met the housing needs of people unable to secure a mortgage. Housing was viewed as a social requirement that local authorities had a duty to provide. Since the 1980s successive 26-County Administrations have regarded the provision of housing to those unable to afford a mortgage as a form of charity. This was and is an ideological decision to make the provision of housing the exclusive preserve of the private sector.
This is a policy decision that is informed by the idea that housing is a commodity to be dictated solely by the market regardless of the social cost. That is the primary reason that the lack of housing has reached such a crisis point. Such thinking is at variance with basic ideals of universal social and economic justice. Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights lists housing along with food, clothing and medical care as the right common to every human being.
A state that is allows its citizens to die on the streets of its towns and cities due to lack of shelter is shamed before the world. Éire Nua would incorporate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights into the domestic law of a 32-County independent Ireland. That is the type of radical thinking that is required if we are to truly “cherish all the children of the nation equally” in the spirit of the 1916 Proclamation.