European campaigners back Dublin, Limerick residents over 'harmful' living conditions

People living in 20 of the most run-down housing complexes in the country have taken a landmark fight for basic living conditions to Europe.

A Paris-based international human rights body lodged claims on behalf of 130,000 residents in estates in inner city Dublin and Limerick over sewage problems, persistent leaks, harmful damp and mould after charities at home did not take up the cause.

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) filed a 51-page complaint with the Council of Europe accusing the Government of presiding over appalling living standards and failing to meet basic and legal housing requirements.

It also focuses on crime and anti-social behaviour in the complexes and accuses the State of a strategy of deliberate neglect to further run down already dilapidated flat complexes which sit on prime development land.

Karim Lahidji, president of the organisation, said: “The right to adequate housing is a fundamental human right and a prerequisite for the enjoyment of other rights and the appropriate development of families and children.

“It is unacceptable that those who live in social housing accommodation are not adequately protected against violation of this right.”

The complaint alleges discrimination against some of the most vulnerable and poverty stricken communities in Ireland.

It highlights conditions in estates like Dolphin House, St Theresa’s Gardens, Charlemont Street and Bridgefoot Street in Dublin’s south inner city and O’Devaney Gardens, Dominick St, Croke Villas in the north inner city, among others.

Surveys carried out on residents in Dolphin House in 2012 revealed a risk of lung disease and nine out of 10 children missing school days because of the impact of damp, mould and sewage.

Some people in the flats reported breathing difficulties, diarrhoea, skin rashes and depression due to the poor conditions.

The report also targeted the €3bn Limerick Regeneration scheme for failing to complete promised work in estates like Moyross, Southill, St Mary’s Park and Ballinacurra Weston. It states only €116m has been spent.

Limerick City and County Council said 76 new homes will be built this year alone.

The FIDH complaint accuses local authorities of a conflict of interest as councils act as landlords and also enforce of regulations.

But it said residents allege their houses and flats are not inspected even though the councils are responsible for similar monitoring in the private sector.

“It is significant that the legislation does not grant any rights to tenants to request or have a right to an inspection of their dwelling – a denial of rights in itself,” the human rights group reported.

The case also says the State has not acted to ensure no discrimination against people from a certain social origin and minority in relation to housing.

The report notes that there is no national or regional tenants’ associations in Ireland, and no State support in place to set them up.

It also pointed to Dublin City Council plans dating back to 2008 to regenerate 12 large disadvantaged local authority estates in inner city locations involving over 2,000 of its stock of 11,000 inner city flats.

All collapsed with the property crash, except for Fatima which was virtually complete.

Pointing to the neglect in already dilapidated estates and people abandoning homes and communities, the complaint said out of 346 original units in St Theresa’s Gardens only 108 were occupied in March 2013 and in O’Devaney Gardens out of 278 original flats only 98 were in use a year ago.

“The impact of the state regeneration policies can be described as a process of de-regeneration or regeneration through displacement,” the FIDH complaint states.

“People are now suspicious of one another and have lost support, their communities are losing hope, anti-social behaviour increases, and there is a loss of a sense of place, as people are separated from their family and friends,” the report said.

The landmark case is being taken under the European Social Charter, a Council of Europe treaty which guarantees social and economic human rights.

It alleges Irish law, policy and practices on social housing do not comply with housing, social protection and anti-discrimination standards and that the State is in breach of five regulations.

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