Yesterday afternoon, members of Occupy Belfast controversially “took control” of the Bank of Ireland building on Royal Avenue in Belfast. They claim their move was in opposition to “soaring homelessness, lack of affordable social housing and home repossessions”. Could a Bill of Rights help with these issues?
Sub-standard housing, homelessness and repossessions have become a common reality for many people in Northern Ireland. If a Bill of Rights that included the right to adequate accommodation were already in place, then it’s possible that yesterday’s events could have been avoided. But how exactly could a Bill of Rights help?
The Human Rights Commission recommend a Bill of Rights for NI include the following:
1. Everyone has the right to an adequate standard of living sufficient for that person and their dependents. Public authorities must take all appropriate measures, including legislative measures, to the maximum of their available resources, with a view to achieving progressively the full realisation of this right.
2. No one shall be allowed to fall into destitution.
The ‘Housing Rights Service of Northern Ireland’ supports this position. They cite those living in segregated areas, with limited options of being offered social housing in integrated areas, as well as those in need of emergency accommodation, as key reasons why the provisions should be enforced in a Bill of Rights.
We have yet to see what the results of yesterday’s “bank takeover” will be. In the meantime, perhaps it’s time we united behind an enforceable Bill of Rights that could tackle housing issues in Northern Ireland?
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