21 APRIL 2020
ICSA president Edmond Phelan says that ICSA will campaign against any referendum to interfere with property rights and devalue land. “Suggestions that government formation plans include a referendum to facilitate an artificial cap on the value of land will be resisted ferociously by farmers and indeed they should be resisted by all property owners.”
“The suggestion will plunge hundreds of thousands of people back into negative equity. It also puts thousands of farmers in a very vulnerable position. Successive governments have done nothing about the relentless squeezing of margins on all farms, especially cattle, sheep, tillage and vegetable sectors. Having allowed many farmers drift to the verge of bankruptcy, they are now proposing to tee up the conditions to allow a land grab by corporate interests at well below the real value of land.”
“It is idiotic to pretend that capping only development land will not have a severe knock-on impact on the value of all land. At a time when governments hide behind laws to avoid insisting that the primary producer gets a fair price, it is incredible that they are now thinking of wanton destruction of a carefully balanced constitutional protection so that those same primary producers will be left very vulnerable when it comes to the one thing still left to them – their land.”
“In any event, if the referendum is passed, it opens up the appalling vista that future governments, emboldened by the destruction of constitutional property rights, could enact all sorts of authoritarian measures to take land off people for various reasons. We have already seen Compulsory Purchase Orders used in an aggressive way to go beyond essential infrastructure projects.
ICSA has a long track record of fighting against power lines and we have seen efforts to extend powers for the benefit of private electricity development projects. In all cases, we are clinging to the vital constitutional guarantees of property rights. Fianna Fail and Fine Gael will have to explain why this is necessary, especially given that the constitution already allows that property rights are regulated by the principles of social justice.”
Mr Phelan went on to say he was particularly shocked as none of the three biggest parties had mentioned this in the general election and, in fact, the Taoiseach had specifically ruled out any changes on property rights in response to the Social Democrats in September 2017.
“It is not as if housing was not a main issue in the election. There is something profoundly repellent about the two main parties now bringing forward a proposal that they did not propose in the general election. The constitution should be protected and should not be seen as a political football for every populist idea that comes into someone’s head, particularly when it acts as a distraction from the real failings.”