CETA and Irish Housing – pt. 2

CETA and Irish Housing – pt. 2

Our power to influence decisions on homes is under threat because of a dodgy trade deal: CETA

Minister Darragh O’Brien’s (FF) long awaited Housing For All strategy promises affordability and supply above all else, so why is the government also trying to push through the EU Trade Agreement, CETA, which cripples the state’s ability to build homes, ensure safe living conditions, set environmental standards or enact rent caps?

As part of the privately crafted trade agreement between the EU and Canada, hides the creation of Ireland’s first Investor Court System (ICS), that will override our current courts. This is a behind-closed-doors jury-less court, where Canadian companies can sue the state when it brings in legislation that impacts their profit margins. So, let’s say CETA passes and the government enacts rent caps in high pressure areas of Dublin, well, Ireland’s largest private landlord (often referred to as a ‘Vulture Fund’) is Canadian; Ires Reit. They wouldn’t be too happy with rent caps and so could sue the state to make up for the profit margin of the Canadian company.

This has happened in other countries. According to a report from the Irish Council of Trade Unions, ‘this was the case in New Zealand where the government dropped plans to introduce plain packaging for cigarettes due to fears of litigation… The French multinational Veolia also utilised [ICS] procedures to bring a case against Egypt, seeking some €82 million compensation, following the government’s decision to raise the monthly minimum wage and introduce other labour reforms.’  This could potentially lead Irish governments into a situation where any legislation introduced is toeing the line of the corporate interests of Canadian vulture funds, real estate companies and other businesses.

Such a “regulatory freeze” would seriously hinder any attempts to introduce legislation to address the housing crisis. Legislation protecting tenants living and safety standards could lead to higher costs for companies that the Irish government would be held responsible for. The ICS would lead an already corporate-friendly government further down the road of putting business profits above the needs of Irish people and exacerbate the housing crisis. Similarly, legislation surrounding environmental standards and protection has been the one of the biggest worries around CETA.

The Investor Court System is not only an affront to democracy and Irish sovereignty, but also makes a mockery of the government’s declared intention of ending the housing crisis under the Housing For All programme. An Investor Court System would have the effect of limiting the scope of government actions to reduce affordability unless they are willing to risk being held responsible for corporate losses. 

Fianna Fáil and Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien know that they’re on their last chance when it comes to homes. So we want Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien – Dublin Fingal TD – to know that CETA is a red line issue for voters who care about homes. CETA must be scrapped for good to ensure that we can continue to have a say about how homes are delivered in our communities.

If this is a concern for you, you can give Darragh a buzz/email to let him know the housing crisis matters to you ((01) 618 3802; (01) 888 2000. darragh.obrien@oireachtas.ie), or get in touch with your local Green or Fianna Fáil TD and get organised in your community. We can stop CETA in its tracks and protect environmental and housing standards across Europe and at home. 

This notice is brought to you by the Campaigns Committee of CATU, a community action tenants union operating in your neighbourhood, and in collaboration with Uplift, a people-powered campaign community.