Open letter to Taoiseach: Sign the ICESCR Optional Protocol

22 September 2009

An Taoiseach Brian Cowen,
Department of the Taoiseach,
Government Buildings,
Upper Merrion Street,
Dublin 2

18th September 2009

Dear Taoiseach,

On Thursday 24 September, representatives of states from around the world will gather to sign a new international agreement aimed at strengthening the protection of economic, social and cultural rights for individuals. The new Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights creates a mechanism through which individuals, whose rights in areas such as employment, health, housing and education have been violated, and who have not been able to achieve justice in their own countries, can apply to the UN for assistance in finding a resolution.

At a time when the protection of economic and social rights has never been more important, it is extremely disappointing that the Irish Government does not intend to sign the new Protocol later this month.

We urge you to adopt an approach that is consistent with the Government's stated strong commitment to global respect for human rights, and its decision that Ireland seeks election to the UN Human Rights Council in 2012. We are concerned that Ireland's failure to sign the Optional Protocol this month will send a regrettable signal to other states, including those in the Global South, that it is acceptable to deny access to remedies to victims of human rights violations.

The Optional Protocol is not about obtaining compensation, nor is it about trying to use the UN to embarrass national governments; rather it seeks to enable the UN to work with individuals and governments to find solutions. By signing the Protocol the Irish Government can demonstrate its commitment to protecting economic and social rights in Ireland and elsewhere.

We, the undersigned, call on you to show leadership on this issue; we urge the Government to sign and ratify the Protocol this month, thus making a public commitment to increase access to justice for those whose essential rights have been violated and whose human dignity has been ignored.

Yours sincerely,

Olga McDonogh, ActionAid Ireland; Salome Mbugua, AkiDwa; Colm O'Gorman, Amnesty International Ireland; Maeve Taylor, Banúlacht; Jillian Van Turnhout, Children's Rights Alliance;John Moffett, Christian Aid; Deirdre Murray, Comhlámh; Hans Zomer, Dochas; Anna Visser, European Anti-Poverty Network; Noeline Blackwell, Free Legal Advice Centres; Deirdre Carroll, Inclusion Ireland; Mark Kelly, Irish Council for Civil Liberties; Niall Behan, Irish Family Planning Association; Liam Herrick, Irish Penal Reform Trust; Damien Peelo, Irish Traveller Movement; John Stewart, Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed; Fr. Gerry O'Hanlon, Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice; Mary Cunningham, National Youth Council of Ireland; Frances Byrne, OPEN; Fr. Peter McVerry, Peter McVerry Trust; David Dalton, Plan Ireland; Don Ryan, Teachers Union of Ireland; Deirdre Garvey, The Wheel; Justin Kilcullen, Trócaire; Helen Keogh, World Vision International.


cc. Mr Micheál Martin, Minister for Foreign Affairs, 80 St. Stephen's Green, Dublin 2.