FLAC event highlights need to use law to create a more equal society

16 April 2010

PILA logo

Public interest law in action: FLAC event highlights need to use law to create a more equal society

A conference on Public Interest Law in action taking place today in Dublin discussed how public interest law has been used in Australia and Eastern Europe and the possibility for using it to address deeply embedded inequality in Irish society.

Opening the conference, Peter Ward S.C.,chairperson of FLAC, referred to how Ireland has changed dramatically since FLAC held its first public interest law event in 2005. At that time Ireland was prosperous enjoying full employment though still a deeply unequal and divided society.

"Today the challenge is to work through the law to effect positive change and to create a more equal society. Public Interest Law aims a more robust use of the law to attack social exclusion," said Mr Ward. He pointed out that those who have flouted the law - the most powerful in our society - and who have helped to beggar this country will use the law to defeat every process that attempts to call them to account: "It will be a grotesque spectacle watching these people avoid justice."

"PIL has ensured now that there are hundreds of lawyers seeking to make the law accessible to affect positive change. And that we can work with a common sense of purpose - and what it might mean to live in a civilized society with shared values," Mr Ward commented.

Legal academic, author and human rights activist Andrea Durbach spoke about the lost generation of aborginal children who were 'stolen' from their parents in Australia up until the 1970s. She has been involved in developing a system of reparation to address the enormous suffering experienced by generations of Aborgines as a consequence of this policy. Dr Durbach referred to the similarities between the situation in Ireland with the Ryan report.

Founder of the Public Interest Law Institute Edwin Rekosh spoke about the huge changes in Eastern and Central Europe that came with the building of civil society and how public interest law became a useful concept as people working in NGOs realised that much of their work involved public interest law and that it could be further used to create spaces for democratic work.

The event continues with an overview of developments in Ireland North and South and in the afternoon with a public interview with journalist and broadcaster Vincent Browne.