Thomas Pringle TD

Pringle brings forward bill to see economic, social and cultural rights enshrined in Constitution

Independent TD for Donegal, Thomas Pringle, has introduced for the third time a Private Members Bill that would see economic, social and cultural rights enshrined in the Constitution, calling it, “the right thing to do”.

The bill received strong support across opposition parties and members, who also joined with Deputy Pringle in voicing opposition to a Government amendment to delay a second reading of the bill for 18 months “to allow for greater analysis”.

Deputy Pringle said: “The Government makes responses to the UN committee on a regular basis, so there is already full consideration taking place within every department in relation to this because they have to compile the answer as to why they are not complying with it.

“So obviously they are considering it, and they know what it’s all about,” he said. The Dáil will vote on the Government’s amendment at a later sitting.

Addressing the Dáil today on his Private Members’ Bill, the 37th Amendment of The Constitution (Economic, Social And Cultural Rights) Bill 2018, Deputy Pringle said: “The possibility of economic, social and cultural rights being enshrined in our constitution is something to hope for, to mobilise around and to show residents of Ireland that we will have a ‘new normal’, a better normal.

“We can do it. There just isn’t the political will to look after our most vulnerable in society, or there hasn’t been to date,” he said.

Ireland signed up to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 1973, ratified it in 1989, and has done nothing since, he said.

This bill has already been debated in the 31st Dáil in May 2015, and in the 32nd Dáil in March 2017. Deputy Pringle said he keeps resubmitting the bill, “because of its importance to our human rights and because of the constitutional protections we would have”.

Deputy Pringle said: “I’ve heard all the arguments against accepting the bill over the years and still none of them stack up. If anything, this past year of unprecedented times in a global pandemic has shown us that this bill is more important than ever.”

He said he had little faith that Fianna Fail or Fine Gael “would accept a bill that would mean legislation should be based on human rights”, but noted that in the 32nd Dáil, when the Green Party were in opposition, two current Ministers, Eamon Ryan and Catherine Martin, had supported his bill.

Deputy Pringle asked: “Does this mean that the Green Party will ensure that the Government will accept the Bill?”

He also pointed out that the Government signed but did not implement the optional protocol to the covenant, which would “provide for a complaints procedure for individuals who believe their economic, social and cultural rights have been violated”. The people must have a say, the deputy said.

Deputy Pringle said: “Yes we are answerable to them and they should be given the opportunity to vote on this issue in a referendum.” He said the referendum should be accepted, discussed at committee and brought forward to run alongside a referendum on a Right to Housing in 2022.

Independent Senator Eileen Flynn has also given her support to the bill, saying, “What Deputy Pringle is trying to do is shape that into a more sustainable Ireland for us all and a more equal Ireland for us all.”

Deputy Pringle is also urging the public to sign an online petition, to make their voices heard in support of the bill before the Government amendment returns to the Dáil for a vote. The petition is available here: https://my.uplift.ie/petitions/support-the-economic-social-cultural-rights-referendum-bill-1

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