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Seanad Éireann Order of Business: Affordable Housing, Domestic Violence, Tidy Towns, Bogs, Bins and Benches

31 May 2021

I was happy to give way to Senator Martin too. I thank the Deputy Leader for the change in the schedule so that we will be debating Committee Stage of the Affordable Housing Bill today and on Friday. I look forward to that continued debate. Those of us who were involved in the debate on Friday will be well aware of the substantial number of amendments tabled in respect of this important legislation and of the substantive nature of the issues involved. Our housing spokesperson, Senator Moynihan and I were concerned about the key issue of affordability and how the criteria for affordability are to be set.

We have been arguing that they should be set in accordance with people's income rather than in accordance with the fluid and, unfortunately, manipulable criterion of market value. That debate will be continuing today and I look forward to it. Housing is such a crucial issue. Across Dublin Bay South, where, obviously, I am working extensively at present, you hear it from so many people who are priced out of accommodation, who have had to move back home with their parents, who simply cannot afford to rent flats in the area and yet we see apartments lying empty. This housing debate is hugely important. I am really glad that we will see it resuming on Committee Stage, today and Friday, we will not be truncating it, and I hope we will not be needing to guillotine it. That is a very important issue. It is so important to get it right. So many attempts at adjusting housing policy have failed, as we have seen over the past few years.

I also ask the Deputy Leader for a debate on the new strategy to combat domestic sexual and gender-based violence. I welcome the fact that today the Department of Justice is launching a consultation on this, the third national strategy, which it hopes will be concluded by the end of this year, and that that is being done in conjunction with Safe Ireland and with the National Women's Council. Colleagues who were in this House in 2017 and 2018 will recall that we made really important progressive changes to our law on domestic and sexual violence through two legislative measures, the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017 and the Domestic Violence Act 2018. We brought in such important measures as the new offence of coercive control and a statutory definition of consent for the first time in Irish law. It is really important that we continue in this House to champion necessary changes to protect those who are suffering from domestic and gender-based violence and I hope we can have that debate.

Finally, I commend the Portobello Tidy Towns, my local Tidy Towns organisation. We had a big group of volunteers out, this weekend and the previous weekend, tidying up in Portobello with the assistance of Dublin City Council and local businesses such as 31 Lennox and many others. It is so important when we see areas such as Portobello getting a bad press because people are gathering there that we remember there is a huge community effort. Portobello is a fantastic place to live and a huge community goes on all the time there for so many of us volunteering to help clean it up and to make it a really lovely place to live in, to bring up children in and to just spend time in. To remember, our city spaces can be really pleasant. They can be really positive public amenities and we need to strengthen that and commend that where we see it happening.