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24 July 2003 Edition

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Anger voiced at deepening housing crisis

Increased levels of homelessness, rising house prices, rack-renting landlords... The PD/Fianna Fáil government has stood by for six years and watched as the housing crises spiralled out of control. There is growing anger in Dublin and elsewhere as people struggle to secure adequate accommodation for themselves and their families. Sinn Féin activists are faced with the results of this crisis daily.

Against this background a public meeting to discuss the housing crisis in Dublin, organised by Rathmines Sinn Féin, was held in the Camden Court Hotel on Wednesday 16 July. The contributions from Rathmines Sinn Féin representative Eoin Ó Sé, Sinn Féin Dublin EU candidate Marylou McDonald and Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD were followed by a lively discussion.

Eoin Ó Sé opened the meeting by remarking the growing number of people searching for decent and affordable housing while in recent years both house prices and rents have increased dramatically. He slated the record of government in relation to the housing issue, saying: "Successive governments have failed in their responsibility to deliver local authority and social and affordable housing. After three consultants' reports and the commission on the private rented sector, there is no sign that the housing problem is being solved."

Marylou McDonald gave a general overview of the housing crisis in the State and particularly in Dublin. She outlined the importance of enshrining the right to housing in the 1937 Constitution and reminded those present that there is much opposition, from the right led by PD Minister Michael McDowell, to the inclusion of such rights in the 1937 Constitution.

Marylou emphasised the importance of campaigning about the housing crisis at a local level by taking initiatives, such as highlighting the amount of derelict sites in the city.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh spoke of the lack of political will to tackle the housing crisis.

The Dublin South Central TD said: "Today, along with John Dwyer, I made an oral submission on behalf of Sinn Féin to the Oireachtas All-Party Committee on the Constitution which is looking into the issue of property rights. As part of our submission I made it clear that Sinn Féin believes that the Constitution allows for a large number of measures to be taken limiting property rights in the common good. The political will to take such measures simply hasn't existed. The constitutional protection given to property rights is continually given as the reason for the supposed inability of various governments to introduce legislation that prioritises the common good. For example, constitutional problems are cited by the current government for is failure to abolish ground rents. Sinn Féin contends that legislation should be brought forward, even where there are constitutional concerns, and tested in the Supreme Court as was done with the social housing provisions in Section V of the Planning and Development Act 2000."

Aengus also spoke of the problems that exist in Dublin as a result of the long history of corruption in planning and rezoning and the continued problem of speculators hoarding land.

Illustrating the importance of giving local authorities greater power to CPO derelict sites without compelling them to pay more than existing use value, speakers from the floor highlighted a recent initiative of squatting in derelict city centre buildings.

An increase in capital gains tax was also called for so that the state would have the revenue needed to build houses for the 48,000 people currently on local authority waiting lists.

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