Government must act now on transgender rights

21 June 2011

FLAC (the Free Legal Advice Centres) have marked the first anniversary of the final decision in the Lydia Foy transgender case by calling for urgent legislation to recognise transgender persons.

It is now one year since the Government withdrew its appeal in the Lydia Foy case and admitted that Ireland is in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights, said FLAC. It is also nearly four years since the High Court first ruled that the failure to recognise Ms Foy in her female gender and provide her with a new birth certificate was a violation of her rights under the European Convention.

Since then, every day that the Government fails to act amounts to another breach of the Convention and of the rights of Lydia Foy and the transgender community, added the legal human rights body.

Both this Government and the previous Government had pledged to change the law on this issue but so far nothing has happened. "Transgender persons have had their hopes raised and are now becoming increasingly frustrated", stated FLAC's senior solicitor Michael Farrell "and Ireland is now one of the last states in Europe to recognise transgender persons."

The last Government set up an interdepartmental committee to advise on changing the law more than a year ago but it has still not reported. FLAC called on the Minister for Social Protection to instruct the committee to report immediately so that legislation could be introduced without further delay.

The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, commented on the Foy case on his visit to Ireland at the beginning of this month and said the Government's failure to change the law was unacceptable. A major report from the Council of Europe which is to be published later this week is also expected to criticise Ireland for failing to legislate for transgender rights.

"It is long past time the Government brought us into line with the rest of Europe on this issue", commented Mr. Farrell.


Notes for Editors:

1.The High Court found in 2007 that Ireland was in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights by failing to provide legal recognition for transgender persons. Judge Liam McKechnie said that Ireland was very isolated from the rest of Europe on this issue and made the first ever declaration that Irish law was incompatible with the European Convention. The Government appealed that decision to the Supreme Court but withdrew its appeal in June 2010, thereby accepting the verdict of the High Court. The Fianna Fail/Green Party Government promised in October 2009 to introduce legislation to provide for legal recognition of transgender persons in their acquired gender and to allow them to marry or enter into civil partnerships in that gender. They also set up a Gender Recognition Advisory Group to propose Heads of a Bill on this issue in May 2010. The Group held consultations with interested parties in October last year and was expected to report by Christmas but has still not done so. The current Government also promised to introduce transgender legislation in its Programme for Government but nothing has happened while it awaits the report of the Gender Recognition Group.

2. FLAC has produced a briefing document on this issue: "The Lydia Foy Case" (21 June 2010).

3. FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres) is an independent human rights organisation which works to promote equal access to justice for all. It runs a lo-call telephone information line giving general legal information and supports a network of volunteer-run evening FLAC clinics around Ireland (35 in Dublin and 52 in other parts of the country).