EU has duty to protect citizens' rights as much as preserve fiscal stability

7 February 2013

An event taking place in Dublin today and organised by Public Interest Law Alliance (PILA) will showcase the European Union's Charter protecting the fundamental rights of citizens, focusing on how it has been implemented in Ireland and how it can be used to better effect. PILA is a project of legal rights group FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres).

Targetted at legal practitioners and NGOs, the seminar features inputs from top London human rights lawyer Jonathan Cooper and Irish barrister and EU law expert Suzanne Kingston. Speaking ahead of the event, FLAC Senior Solicitor Michael Farrell, who will chair the seminar, said it will explore ways that the EU Charter can be used in Ireland: “The Charter incorporates the European Convention on Human Rights into every area of EU law.  It has already made changes in our immigration and asylum law and has the potential to enhance the rights of ordinary people in every area where EU law applies.”

Noeline Blackwell, FLAC Director General, pointed out that through its Charter of Fundamental Rights, the European Union has a duty to protect the rights of every citizen as well as its other roles in maintaining fiscal and political stability. "This legal framework applies to every person in Ireland and we should be aware of its power as tool for change, particularly in this European Year of Citizens," she said.

The guest speakers will address the topics of how the Charter has been used in practice in Britain and how it has been and could be used here in Ireland. Mr Cooper will say that the Lisbon Treaty has made human rights protection as important as the consolidation of the European Union and has promoted to the level of EU objectives such issues as social justice and protection, equality between women and men, solidarity between generations and the protection of the rights of the child, as well as combating social exclusion and discrimination.

The event runs in the Morrison Hotel from 4pm to 6pm today.


Editors’ notes:

  1. PILA (Public Interest Law Alliance) was set up in 2009 and operates a pro bono referral scheme that matches expertise in the legal profession with specific legal needs in NGOs. PILA increases the capacity of organisations to use the law in the public interest through legal education, law reform and litigation. PILA also uses its website, fortnightly PILA bulletin and seminars to raise awareness about public interest law here in Ireland and internationally.
  2. FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres) is a human rights organisation which exists to promote equal access to justice for all. As an NGO, FLAC relies on a combination of statutory funding, contributions from the legal professions and donations from individuals and grant-making foundations to support its work. We offer basic legal information through our telephone information line at 189 350 250 and free legal advice through a network of 80 volunteer evening advice centres. FLAC also campaigns on a range of issues including personal debt, fairness in social welfare law, public interest law and civil legal aid.
  3. Jonathan Cooper is a barrister with Doughty Street Chambers, London, Britain’s top human rights law chambers.  Jonathan is a human rights specialist and advises on all aspects of domestic and international human rights law. He represents clients before English and international courts and tribunals and has taken several cases to the European Court of Human Rights. Jonathan has particular expertise in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and the human rights and equality implications of the Lisbon Treaty. He is the editor of one of the leading human right law journals, European Human Rights Law Review (Sweet & Maxwell), and co-editor (with Prof. Jeffrey Jowell) of Understanding Human Rights Principles (Hart Publications, 2001) and Delivering Rights (Hart Publications, 2003). In 2007, Jonathan was awarded an OBE for services to human rights.
  4. Suzanne Kingston BL is a barrister practising at the Irish bar, where her practice includes EU law, judicial review and commercial law.  She has frequently appeared before the EU courts, including acting as sole counsel on behalf of Ireland and as sole external counsel on behalf of the European Commission.  She lectures in EU law at UCD and has published widely in the area.  She worked for several years at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg and, prior to that, practised EU law in Brussels.
  5. Chairperson: Michael Farrell is the senior solicitor with FLAC. He formerly worked as a solicitor in private practice and has taken cases to the European Court of Human Rights, the UN Human Rights Committee and the European Committee of Social Rights.  He is a former Co-Chairperson of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties and was a member of the Irish Human Rights Commission from 2001 to 2011. He is also the Irish member of the Council of Europe Commission Against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI).
  6. Papers and presentations will be available at