Europe rights leader greets Lydia Foy

18 October 2012

Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Nils Muiznieks yesterday (Thursday) met transgender woman Lydia Foy at a conference in Dublin. Speaking at the annual meeting of the International Lesbian and Gay Association, Mr Muiznieks said that he was honoured to meet Ms Foy and noted that she was still waiting for recognition of her female gender identity after litigation that had gone on for over a decade.

He welcomed reports that the Irish Government was planning to introduce legislation to recognise transgender people but warned that it was essential that the legislation did not impose unnecessary limitations on trans persons.

Today (Friday) marks the fifth anniversary of a landmark High Court judgment in Ms Foy's case. The court stated that Irish law was incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights because of its failure to provide for legal recognition of transgender persons in their acquired gender. This was the first ever declaration of incompatibility made under the European Convention on Human Rights Act, 2003. So far no legislation has been introduced to change that situation.

A German delegate to the conference protested at the delay by the Irish Government in implementing the judgment in the Foy case and also criticised a proposal that any gender identity legislation would require married trans persons to divorce before they could be recognised in their acquired gender.

FLAC solicitor Michael Farrell, who represented Lydia Foy in her legal challenge, said the five year delay in acting upon the High Court's judgment was unacceptable. "Ms Foy and other transgender persons have had to suffer regular embarrassment and humiliation because their birth certificates contradict their appearance and the gender they live in" said Mr Farrell. He noted that the Government's failure to implement the court's decision also undermined the legislation that had incorporated the European Convention on Human Rights into Irish law.

Mr Muiznieks told the 200 delegates from all over Europe that Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender issues would be a priority for his office and that he intended to mainstream these issues in his periodical monitoring visits to all Council of Europe member states.

The Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Eamon Gilmore TD, is due to address the conference on Sunday morning.



Editors' notes:

  1. FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres) is a human rights organisation which exists to promote equal justice for all. FLAC is an NGO that relies on a combination of statutory funding, contributions from the legal professions and donations from individuals and grant-making foundations to support its work. FLAC offers basic legal information through its telephone information line and free legal advice through its network of 80 volunteer evening advice centres. It also campaigns on a range of issues including personal debt, fairness in social welfare law, public interest law and civil legal aid.
  2. ILGA-Europe is holding it's 16th Annual Conference in Dublin on 18-21 October. More information on ILGA-Europe and the conference agenda is available online.
  3. FLAC Senior Solicitor Michael Farrell has prepared a briefing note on the Lydia Foy case and transgender issues in Ireland.