A right to housing referendum should be held this year to protect children, the Ombudsman for Children has said.
Dr Niall Muldoon said progress has been made in relation to children’s rights over the years but the State “still [has] a lot to do”.
There are currently a record number of people in emergency accommodation and Dr Muldoon said the housing crisis is having a profound impact on the nation’s children.
“We have 22% of our children at risk of poverty and we have 3,500 children who are homeless,” he said.
“That’s a real failure on behalf of the State and we’ve been highlighting this since 2015 since I came into office.
“There was a Rebuilding Ireland in 2016 that was supposed to be able to provide enough social and affordable housing for everybody - that hasn’t happened.”
In recent weeks, the State has been unable to provide accommodation for hundreds of international protection applicants amid a severe shortage of housing.
Some have been forced to sleep in tents pitched up on the street in central Dublin and Dr Muldoon said officials need to work together more on the issue.
“We really need to step up and realise that we need to have a medium-term plan,” he said.
“The short-term plan was, ‘Let’s get people housed and put a house over their heads but we now know these people are going to stay here for a number of years - there’s no doubt they’re not going back very fast.
“So, we need to plan for that and we need to engage in a much more active way with the local authorities so they can provide land for modular houses, get it done quickly and provide proper, secure accommodation for as many people as possible.”
Yesterday, Minister for Integration Roderic O’Gorman said a “significant offer” had been made to asylum seekers who had previously not been offered accommodation.
Main image: A Polling Station sign in Dublin. (Photo by Artur Widak/NurPhoto)