Bearing in mind the recent increase in Covid-19 hospitalisations and spiralling cost of living, I hope that you and your family are keeping safe and well. Now that the Dáil and Seanad have risen for the summer recess, I write with an update on some of our recent activities and to wish you well for the summer.
In the last sitting week before the recess, I raised the concerning situation which faces families who live in buildings with construction defects. It is estimated that up to 100,000 households are affected, and up to 80% of apartments built between 1991 and 2013. Affected households face enormous costs for remediation, and live in fear of dangers such as fire. We need to build housing on a larger scale, but this crisis underscores the need for that housing to be habitable and safe.
Inflation has hit the highest rate in 38 years. In the midst of this unprecedented cost of living crisis, those households in defectively-built apartments have an additional fear of debt due to the cost of fixing the defects, increased insurance costs, and an inability to sell their homes where their families have outgrown them. They need supports from Government. After I raised this matter, I received a commitment from the Tánaiste to see this matter addressed. We will continue to follow up to see justice for affected families.
It had been a busy twelve months for us in Labour. We have introduced legislation to:
- Guarantee security and affordability to renters;
- Introduce a Living Wage in Ireland to put money in the pockets of those who need it most;
- Ensure that all interns are paid a decent wage for the work they do, and to end exploitation of young people working as interns;
- Address the serious shortcomings in State provision for autistic people and children, particularly in relation to the constitutional right to an education;
- Implement the Kenny Report and reduce the cost of building public housing on public land;
- Tackle green-washing by compelling manufacturers to record the “carbon footprint” of the commodities they sell;
- Protect homeowners paying mortgages from interest rate spikes;
- Make illegal the horrendous practice of the non-consensual recording and circulating footage or photographs of road traffic accidents online;
- Preserve and develop the valuable amenity that is Dublin Bay;
- Phase out single-sex non-fee-paying schools over the course of the next ten years;
- Automatically extend eviction notice periods where a tenant is certified as at risk of homelessness;
- Deliver a statutory right to flexible work; and
- Protect women and people of colour from discrimination in broadcasting.
We have also secured key amendments to Government legislation in the areas of housing and workers’ rights, to help vindicate the rights of adopted persons and survivors of Mother and Baby and County Homes, and to tackle illegal dumping through the use of CCTV footage. We secured commitments from the Government to extend the fuel allowance, and to broaden the range of persons entitled to redress for institutional abuse.
Throughout this past year, your support, energy and commitment to the Labour movement have been vital in progressing our agenda as Socialists and Social Democrats. I am grateful to all Councillors, Local Area Representatives, TDs, Senators, Party Sections activists, and members – thank you. These are challenging times for the country. The problems we face are complex but their solutions exist in the traditional Labour values of equality, solidarity, justice and fairness. Our Party has played a crucial role in the democratisation of our economy, and of our society, and we will continue to do so in the years to come.
We’ve come so far as a country, and I am proud of the role that Labour has played in that journey. There is so much more that we can and will do. I know the ambition you have for our country and I look forward to continuing to work with you to build a better Ireland.