Minister Sean Sherlock to lead government delegation to UN examination of Ireland

24 April 2015

Publication cover - Our Voice Our Rights
Cover image for Our Voice Our Rights

Ahead of a United Nations examination of Ireland in June, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade this morning announced that the government delegation will be led by Sean Sherlock TD, Minister of State at the Department.


The announcement came at a government consultation on the state’s report to the UN, accounting for how it is meeting its obligations under the main UN treaty on economic, social and cultural rights. 


Organisations working on the ground to help people access basic human rights attended the event. Issues raised included:

  • The state response shows it is not meeting obligations, with its open admission that it does not have data on health and housing for Travellers.
  • What will be the state follow-up to implement the UN expert committee recommendations?
  • What is progress on the law guaranteeing collective bargaining to promote workers’ rights?

The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights protects rights to health, housing, work, education, family life, social security, cultural life and adequate living standards.  The UN is conducting its Periodic Review of Ireland’s compliance with the Covenant, culminating in a formal examination in Geneva on 8-9 June.

The head of the Human Rights Unit of the Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade, Colin Wrafter, outlined state procedures including the response it had recently given to the UN Expert Committee on foot of questions raised in December 2014. FLAC Director General Noeline Blackwell also addressed the gathering, speaking about the report that FLAC, through its Public Interest Law Alliance (PILA), had coordinated on behalf of more than 50 social justice organisations.

She highlighted that the parallel report from civil society identifies significant gaps in the state’s performance on economic, social and cultural rights, including inadequacies in allowing people to work in dignity and to access basic essential services in health, education and social security. “The State’s response has focused on future plans but this examination is actually about Ireland’s record over the past number of years and the State must be ready to explain why it made the decisions it did,” she commented.

The Irish civil society report, Our Voice, Our Rights, collates independent evidence on where the state is failing – or succeeding – on its legal duties, and will be used by the UN expert committee to evaluate the Irish state’s performance. An update to this report with revised recommendations for action will be submitted to the UN Committee on 8 May.

Roisin Hennessy, Senior Research & Policy Officer at the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, explained that the Commission had also submitted an initial report last September and would be furnishing a comprehensive submission across a wide range of issues also in May.

The UN Expert Committee flagged some areas of particular concern in its ‘List of issues’ from December, including the state’s protection of human rights in austerity, physical and mental health, childcare and family supports, working conditions and income adequacy, housing, minority rights and cultural rights..

The civil society report and updates as well as opinion across the organisational spectrum is at




Timeline of events:

  • With input from a range of civil society organisations, FLAC is monitoring developments on economic, social and cultural rights since submitting ‘Our Voice Our Rights’ in September 2014. Other groups also submitted independent reports. The dedicated website reflects fresh information and evidence on the various rights covered by the Covenant.
  • The a sub-group of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights issued a list of questions to the irish State on 1 December 2014 querying government action on a number of specific areas.
  • The Irish government responded to the UN Committee’s list of issues in April 2015 () and held a civil society consultation today 24 April.
  • FLAC will submit an update on the civil society report on 8 May 2015 with revised recommendations.
  • FLAC will lead a delegation of civil society groups bringing issues to the table at the examination of the Irish state in Geneva on 8-9 June 2015. The UN committee will formally examine the Irish state delegation and hold parallel talks with civil society groups. The Irish Human Rights & Equality Commission will be an observer to the examination.
  • Following the examination and parallel meetings, the UN Committee will issue a set of recommendations to the Irish government on action to be taken to progress its Covenant obligations.