Government to face UN scrutiny on basic rights
2 June 2015
A report launched today by the Public Interest Law Alliance of FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres) gives an updated assessment and analysis from over 80 voluntary organisations to the United Nations on how the Irish government has maintained basic human rights in areas like health, housing and work over the past decade.
The lack of basic data tracking how human rights are maintained, together with the effects of the recession, have led to government failure to protect people’s rights in core areas such as education, social security, family life and adequate living standard, the report states. This has particularly impacted on poorer people and those more vulnerable because of their health, age, disability or place or status of residence.
Commented FLAC’s Noeline Blackwell: “We are launching this report ahead of a 2-day examination of the Irish government by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights next week. The Irish government, led by Minister of State Seán Sherlock TD, will be explaining how it believes it has done its duty to protect human rights. But the UN Committee will also be looking this civil society report, as well as an assessment from the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission and other interest group reports. The UN Committee’s attitude is that governments see things from the top down, but it wants to get a fuller picture from other voices in society.”
The report launched today, Our Voice Our Rights: An Update, covers the rights to health, housing, decent working conditions, education, social security and cultural life. Groups contributing include those working with children, older people, rural communities, Travellers, migrants and women, coordinated by FLAC and PILA. The report follows the development of rights in housing, health, education, family life, social welfare and cultural life amongst others.
Ms Blackwell said: ‘What stands out is that no matter what work these 80-plus organisations were doing, they found that those who could bear the recession the least were most hurt by it. Cuts to public services, job losses and mounting personal debt have taken a disproportionate toll on the weakest.“
Following the examination on 8 & 9 June, the UN Committee will make its assessment and issue conclusions and recommendations to Ireland, normally within a month of the hearing.
The civil society delegation that will travel to Geneva for the hearing comprises FLAC, Threshold, Irish Family Planning Association, Atheist Ireland, Justice for Magdalenes Research, Pavee Point Traveller & Roma Centre, Abortion Rights Campaign, Tallaght Trialogue, Community Law & Mediation and Dr Liam Thornton of UCD Human Rights Network.
- FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres) is a human rights organisation which exists to promote equal access to justice for all. Apart from providing general legal information and advice to the public, FLAC works strategically on consumer credit law, personal debt law, civil legal aid and social welfare law. 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. Our project, PILA (Public Interest Law Alliance), matches social justice legal need to pro bono legal assistance, and coordinated the Irish civil society response.
- 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 of the government delegation led by Minister of State Sean Sherlock TD in Geneva on 8-9 June.
- The civil society view on that performance up to Sept 2014, Our Voice Our Rights, is at www.ourvoiceourrights.ie .The Update from civil society, covering evidence and data from 1 October 2014 to 1 May 2015 and submitted to the UN on 8 May, is also available.
- You can download a briefing on the parallel reporting process and a summary of civil society findings.
- The reports filed by the Government and questions raised by the UN Committee are available on the website of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: www.ohchr.org and can also be accessed at www.ourvoiceourrights/resources.
- The full list of contributors to the report and update (excluding those who did not wish to be named) is on the Our Voice Our Rights website.