Most people believe housing should be enshrined in Constitution

More than half disagree that human rights abuses are ‘not really a problem in Ireland’

More than six out of 10 Irish people believe the right to housing should be enshrined in the State’s constitution, new research has found.

The survey, commissioned by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) and carried out by the Amárach research group earlier this month, reveals 64 per cent of Irish people believe citizens of this country should have a constitutional right to housing.

More than 80 per cent of those surveyed said housing was a basic human right while 79 per cent supported the inclusion of a new ground in Irish equality law to protect people against discrimination due to their socio-economic status. The majority of respondents said family background, a person’s home address or type of house, educational background and economic situation should be outlawed as grounds for discrimination.

The IHREC survey was carried out among 1,200 participants to mark the UN’s Human Rights Day which takes place every year on December 10th – the day the UN general assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. The declaration lays out the rights every human being on Earth is entitled to regardless of race, colour, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.


According to the IHREC survey, more than half of Irish people disagree with the view that every person in Ireland enjoys the same basic human rights while 56 per cent disagreed with the statement that human rights abuses are "not really a problem in Ireland".

Only 28 per cent of respondents said they would know who to contact if they felt their human rights, or the rights of someone close to them, were being violated.

Of these, more than 30 per cent said they’d contact the IHREC, 24 per cent said they’d contact gardaí, 13 per cent would contact another rights group, 9 per cent would consult citizens information and 8 per cent would contact a solicitor.

When it comes to knowledge about human rights, 60 per cent of people said they knew a “great deal” or “fair deal” while 33 per cent said they knew “not very much” or “nothing” about their rights.

About 95 per cent of respondents agreed human rights were important for creating a fairer society in Ireland.

IHREC chief commissioner Sinéad Gibney said the survey results underlined the need to look at housing in Ireland “as a right, not a commodity”.

“Housing represents more than just the cost of bricks and mortar; it’s where our children grow, where our families gather, and where generations should feel safe and secure,” said Ms Gibney.

Discrimination against people living in areas facing socio-economic challenges should now be considered for prohibition in law, she added. “This approach would allow people seeking employment to ensure that their applications are assessed on their skills, qualifications and ability rather than on social background or postal address,” said Ms Gibney.

She warned that the Covid-19 pandemic had presented challenges in protecting human rights, both in relation to life and health, but also through actions taken by the State in its response to the crisis and recovery plans.

“What’s now important is that we look at Ireland post-Covid through a prism of human rights and equality to ensure we recover better,” she said.

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak is an Irish Times reporter and cohost of the In the News podcast