Welcome for UN body's comments on Irish report

24 July 2008

FLAC has welcomed the concluding observations of the UN Human Rights Committee on Ireland's implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

According to FLAC's director Noeline Blackwell, "the Committee's observations are welcome as an objective and expert assessment of progress in implementing human rights in Ireland. The Committee has noted some positive developments, but they also raise a worrying number of concerns. The concerns raised for transgendered people and for those who are imprisoned for failure to pay a civil debt affect some of the most vulnerable people in the land and are concerns that we in FLAC have also raised with the government."

FLAC pointed out that the failure of the Irish state to allow for birth certificates which would recognize a change of gender by transgender people had been raised by the Committee in relation to five separate articles of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. According to Blackwell, Ireland now stands in a tiny minority in Europe, with Albania, Andorra and the Vatican, in failing to make provision for such birth certificates.

FLAC stated that the Chairperson of the UN Human Rights Committee Mr. Rivas Posada had already stated at the end of the oral session on Ireland's report on 15 July that he found the Irish state delegation's explanations as to why almost 1,000 people ended up in jail for debt related matters "not convincing". FLAC said that this comment had now been followed up by a written concern about the fact that the government did not intend to amend the law which "may in effect" allow imprisonment for those who are unable to pay their civil debts. FLAC has today called on the Irish government to end the system which effectively jails people who cannot pay a debt. Blackwell called the system "truly archaic, grossly inefficient and a breach of international human rights law". The organization which campaigns for reform of debt law as part of greater access to justice, says that the current system benefits no one, and is costly, inefficient and very unfair.

FLAC also welcomed the recommendation that the government should publicize the text of the report that it presented to the Committee and the committee's recommendations.


Notes to Editor:
1. FLAC is an independent human rights organization which promotes equal access to justice for all.

2. The UN Human Rights Committee considered the third periodic report of Ireland on how the State is fulfilling its obligations under the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on July 14-15 2008 in Geneva. The Committee's concluding observations have now issued, dated 23 July 2008. Full details are available on

3. A coalition of Irish NGOs - ICCL (the Irish Council for Civil Liberties), IPRT (the Irish Penal Reform Trust) and FLAC produced a joint "shadow" report reflecting their perspective on how the International Covenant was being implemented in Ireland. This report, endorsed by a large number and wide variety of NGOs is also available on and on the FLAC website.

4. Noeline Blackwell, Director General of FLAC, was present at the consideration of the Irish report at Geneva on 14-15 July.