Renters need certainty not legal row on eviction ban and rent freeze

Senator Rebecca Moynihan
17 July 2020

Reports of a ‘major constitutional row’ over Government plans to extend the current rent freeze and the ban on evictions is deeply worrying said Labour Housing spokesperson Rebecca Moynihan, saying it indicated that there will be no certainty for renters for the rest of this year, and that a political decision is needed to protect the common good as provided for in the Constitution.

It was reported in the Irish Independent that the Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien is locked in a ‘significant’ legal battle with the Attorney General over plans to extend the rents freeze to later in the year.

Senator Moynihan said:
“These measures were passed by the Oireachtas as necessary for compelling reasons of public interest and for the common good. There is now clear evidence that the ban on evictions has had a real impact on reducing homelessness and in protecting public health. It is for lawyers to set out the test which the Constitution provides for when it comes to balancing competing constitutional rights and to enacting measures in the public interest that are proportionate to the needs of the common good.

“But it is for Ministers to apply those tests and to take executive decisions. The Government cannot shirk its executive responsibilities by hiding behind the coat-tails of its legal advisers. Nor can there be any question of the Attorney General having a legislative veto.

“We are still in the middle of a pandemic and there is a need to give certainty to renters. The current regulations are due to expire on Monday and the Minister must act.

“The Government has this week significantly delayed the reopening of society and the economy, as originally proposed in its roadmap. The HSE is now warning of the risk of 150 new cases every day and is worried about hospital capacity. The reopening of our schools is still very much an aspiration rather than a certainty.“In these circumstances, the Housing Minister is better positioned than any of his lawyers to assess what the common good now requires.

“The Minister should listen carefully to the advice of his lawyers but he cannot allow himself to be bound by them. Nor can he be allowed to complain that he would have preferred to extend these vital measures – but that his lawyers would not permit him to do so”, Senator Moynihan concluded.

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