‘Gap in law’ hinders emergency accommodation for families, legal centre says

High Court ‘refused in three cases’ to grant an order compelling councils to provide shelter

There has been a “fundamental failure” by the State to provide a right to shelter and housing in Irish law, according to an independent law centre.

“As a result of this gap in legal protection, Mercy Law Resource Centre brought three separate High Court cases on behalf of three single mothers and their young children, of whom some had special needs,” said acting managing solicitor Sinead Kerin.

“The courts refused to grant an order compelling the councils to provide emergency accommodation to these woman and their children as there is no right to shelter in Irish law,” she said.

Ms Kerin said these cases show the failure by the State to provide emergency accommodation cannot be directly challenged in the courts.


“The gap in the law is clear and established as local authorities have a discretion but no duty to provide emergency accommodation for children in families,” she said.

Mercy Law Resource Centre, which provides free legal assistance to those who are homeless, said a legally enforceable right to housing would not “give a key to a home for all” but would provide “recognition that a home is central to the dignity of each and every person and a foundation of every person’s life”.

It said a constitutional right to housing would put in place a basic floor of protection and the State would be obliged to realise the right to housing.

The centre will publish its report, Children & Homelessness: A Gap in Legal Protection, in Dublin on Wednesday.

As well as calling for a constitutional or statutory right to housing, the report calls for time limits on the use of emergency accommodation for applicants with children and legal aid for homeless and housing matters.

In 2017, Mercy Law carried out over 2,722 pieces of free legal work for 611 clients.

This involve meeting clients in their weekly clinics, legal representation in Residential Tenancy tribunals, Circuit and High Court Appeals, High Court Judicial Reviews and a Supreme Court Appeal.