Housing & Homelessness
The current housing, homeless and rental crisis has been allowed to deepen and worsen to very concerning levels. When I was working in homeless services, Ireland had signed up to the principle of Housing First and homeless services were supposed to be moving towards that model of tenancy sustainment and support for people experiencing homelessness. There is now an implementation plan 2018 – 2021 but as we have seen so often in this and other areas, an implementation plan means nothing without action and the resources to implement those actions. A generation of children is growing up in hotel rooms, B&B and family hubs, and are undoubtedly being hurt by the, as yet, unknown longer term effects of such instability and stress. Tenants are living in substandard accommodation, afraid to complain to their landlords or request repairs for fear of being evicted and then unable to find somewhere affordable and near where they need to be living for work, college, etc. Student accommodation is far too expensive. Our current housing policy is broken on many levels.
My priorities for this are:
– Work with and support other Senators and TDs in their work to bring forward a referendum on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and/or a right to housing, greater legislative measures for addressing the crisis, placing a maximum time limit on the length of time families with children can be held in unsuitable emergency accommodation such as hotels or hubs;
– Research best practice internationally around child and family homelessness, how the effects of homelessness can be mitigated & promote those measures where possible. For example, there are jurisdictions in Europe where children cannot be evicted into homelessness and in Scotland the maximum amount of time that families with children can be held in emergency accommodation is 6 weeks. Finland is one of the few countries that is not experiencing a housing crisis and so lessons can be learnt about what we can do better.
– Work with all stakeholders and agencies involved and support them in the areas that they prioritise for Government; and
– Meet with people directly affected by the crisis and amplify their voices in Seanad Éireann.
Having come from a one parent family with not much money, myself and my mam greatly benefited from the free education and education access options during the 90s and 00s. My secondary school in Finglas had a great Home School Liaison Officer who encouraged my mam back to education through various different access programmes. Thanks to this my mam, who originally left school at the age of 12, now has a Masters from UCD. We received grants that helped with the cost of college but I still had to work part-time during term and full-time during the summer to be able to afford to go to college, and that was before everything changed and fees were introduced. While the SUSI grant helps a lot of people, there are still many aspects of access and supports which could be improved and the introduction of student loans must be opposed at all costs. I am supportive of the option in the Cassells Report for a fully publicly funded third level sector and believe that greater steps can be taken to support parents and families in the costs of primary school and secondary school in particular.
My priorities for this are:
– Develop relationships with USI and other student union bodies to support them in their campaign opposing the introduction of loans and to learn about what aspects of third level need improvement/legislative changes;
– Research best practice internationally around access to education, in particular for areas of socio-economic disadvantage or demographics such as mature students, lone parents returning to education, etc;
– Liaise with primary and secondary school representatives around measures which could be introduced to help lower the costs of school for parents; and
– Closely follow the work of Barnardos and its annual ‘cost of school survey’ to ascertain what measures might be introduced or highlighted on this.
I love animals and became a vegetarian (technically pescatarian) in January 2018. The more I read about different animal welfare and animal rights issues, the more strongly I felt about it. I have always loved animals but it is one of the areas that I have become more educated about during my time working in Dáil Éireann. We are all outraged when we see pictures of neglected or abused animals discovered in Ireland or caught en route to England or other European countries and there are measures we could introduce to improve the lives of animals in Ireland. We should also take responsibility for the huge numbers of dogs and puppies being exported from Ireland every year.
My priorities for this are:
– Ban live hare coursing because with the mechanical hares there is no need for live hares to be snared and used for racing. While there have been some improvements in this area, there are still many disturbing reports of sick or pregnant hares being coursed and I believe that it should be stopped.
– Ban fur farming. There is a Private Members’ Bill on this issue at the moment but if it fails in Dáil Éireann then it is something that could be introduced again in the Seanad.
– Increase the number of inspections at dog breeding establishments and other areas where animals are kept. Ireland has a reputation as the puppy farm capital of Europe and there are more dogs than forever homes. I don’t think that animals should be bred for profit and would work with other like minded Senators and Deputies to be a voice for animals in our national parliament.
Continuing Work – Legislating for abortion
The Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Bill 2018 is the Bill that is currently working its way through the legislative process in the Oireachtas. There are parts of the Bill that could be improved such as trans-inclusive language, greater protection for cases of refusal of care, doing away with the 72 hour wait period and changing the over-emphasis of criminalisation. 66.4% of voters voted to remove the 8th amendment from the Constitution and many cited a person’s choice as their main reason for voting this way. Respecting people’s personal decisions about what is best for them and their families is very important to the irish electorate. Many people chose to share their own personal experiences of abortion in the lead-up to, and during, the campaign. Stigma busting and ridding the shame of secrecy will be an ongoing part of irish life, especially while disrespectful amendments are proposed by anti-choice TDs and Senators. I would be a voice for the people who have made that journey to access abortion care or who have risked prosecution by importing safe but illegal abortion pills.
My priorities for this are:
– Keep legislation under review;
– Research best practice internationally and continue to link with Lawyers4Choice, Doctors4Choice, Midwives4Choice, the Abortion Rights Campaign and others to ensure that we are always working towards the most person-centred abortion legislation;
– Work with others to ensure that the important ancillary recommendations of the Citizens Assembly are implemented and legislated for, where necessary; and
– Promote and participate in stigma busting & educational events nationally; continue the national conversation that we started in order to repeal the 8th.
Other areas of priority
There are so many important areas of life in Ireland to work on and try to improve so the below and above issues are not exhaustive but represent things that I am fully committed to improving and changing. I am also open to hearing from NUI graduates & alumni about their priorities for their representatives in the Seanad.
Personally I would also like to work on greater supports for women and children fleeing domestic violence situations, including addressing anomalies around accessing social housing support. I believe that carers and the people being cared for need more supports also. This is an example of where a National Strategy exists but the recommendations or measures are not being fully implemented.
Previously I worked with people in prison and leaving prison and am very interested in penal reform. Recidivism is reduced when the necessary community projects are put in place. I’m also fully supportive of the move towards treating addiction as a health issue rather than a criminal one.
Climate Change is also an area that needs greater emphasis and should be a priority for our national parliament. Direct Provision is not fit for purpose and I know that some NUI universities and students have done some great work around the catering facilities in their universities who also have the contract for direct provision centres. There is scope to explore this area further and to try and improve the situation for all involved.
Finally, in the area of health, access to orphan drugs for rare diseases and timely access to free and affordable mental health supports are two issues that I have keen interest in and would hope to progress during my time in Seanad Éireann.