FLAC asks Government to implement human rights report's recommendations on access to justice

1 May 2008

In a statement issued today, FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres) welcomed the publication of a report from the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe on his findings in relation to Ireland's human rights situation. The report has now been presented to the full Council of Ministers of the Council of Europe. FLAC has called on the government to ensure the full implementation of all recommendations in the report, and particularly those which would increase the access to justice of people on low incomes and in vulnerable situations.

In its statement, FLAC noted that the Commissioner has said that unlike almost all other member states in the Council of Europe, Ireland has no procedure for issuing birth certificates to transgendered persons in their acquired or actual gender. FLAC welcomes Commissioner Hammarberg's recommendation that the law should be changed to allow this simple measure, which would mean a lot to the transgender community in terms of recognising their dignity and right to self-determination.

FLAC's Senior Solicitor Michael Farrell said: "We are disappointed that the Government's response talks about the complexity of this issue and the need for consultation across many departments before the law could be changed. Why is this issue so difficult in Ireland when nearly every other country in the Council of Europe has been able to resolve it?"

In addition, the report considered the access to justice of those on very low incomes. FLAC's Director General Noeline Blackwell said that many of those who need civil legal aid to present their cases are denied it because of a restrictive means test which is not increased annually in line with the cost of living. She pointed to the report's findings that "access to justice is often conditioned by financial resources and the availability of legal aid for those who lack sufficient means" and she urged the government to accept Commissioner Hammarberg's finding that there is a need for a comprehensive and accessible scheme of legal aid that reflects the actual cost of living."

For further information please contact:
Noeline Blackwell, Director General, FLAC. 01-8745690
Michael Farrell, Senior Solicitor, FLAC. 01-8745690.

Notes to Editors:

  • FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres) is an independent non-governmental human rights organisation dedicated to the realisation of equal access to justice for all.
  • The Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr. Thomas Hammarberg presented his report on his visit to Ireland (which took place on 26-30 November 2007) on 30 April 2008 to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, consisting of representatives of all the Council of Europe states. Click here to access the English version of the report.