FLAC highlights barriers to justice and inequality at UN Review of Ireland
7 October 2021
FLAC CE Eilis Barry today presented at the UN Universal Periodic Review Pre-sessions. FLAC was joined by a variety of Irish human rights organisations, each presenting on a particular topic in order to petition states to make recommendations to Ireland on its human rights record.
Ireland will soon be reviewed as part of the third cycle of the United Nations’ Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism, at the 39th session of the UPR Working Group on 10 November 2021
Eilis Barry speaking at the Pre-Sessions said;
“In particular, we are concerned that Ireland has never received any recommendations in relation to its system of Civil Legal Aid during any previous UPR cycles. In Ireland legal aid is not available for many types of cases which are particularly relevant to people living in poverty and marginalised groups such as Travellers and Roma.”
FLAC addressed the promotion of equality and access to justice for marginalised groups at the UN UPR review. FLAC in advance of this review suggested a number of recommendations;
- Ireland must commit to a comprehensive, independent review of the civil legal aid system which examines the functions of the Legal Aid Board, its resources, the criteria for legal aid (including the means test, and financial contributions), the areas of law covered, and the methods of service delivery. This review should ensure that Ireland complies with its obligations under regional and international human rights instruments.
- Ireland must ensure equal treatment before tribunals and, in particular, designate the Social Welfare Appeals Office, the Workplace Relations Commission and Labour Court as “prescribed” tribunals for the purposes of Section 27(2)(b) of the Civil Legal Aid Act 1995.
- The ongoing review of Ireland’s equality law must ensure that the legislation and framework for dealing with discrimination complaints are robust enough and meet Ireland’s human rights obligations under international instruments.
- Ireland must implement the recommendations of UNCESCR, UNCEDAW and UNCERD in relation to Ireland’s Equality legislation, specifically the recommendation of UNCERD that Ireland review its equality legislation with a view to: “providing for explicit prohibition of multiple or inter-sectional discrimination”; “explicitly including the functions of public authorities within the definition of the ‘services’ in Section 5 of the Equal Status Acts”; and, “ensuring that an effective remedy is provided for discrimination that has a legislative basis”.
Issues affecting the Roma and Traveller Community
- Ireland must implement UNCERD and UNCRC’s recommendations in relation to the provision of Traveller Accommodation and to ensure adequate safeguards against forced evictions.
- Ireland must urgently implement the recommendations set out in the Expert Review Group on Traveller Accommodation.
- Ireland must address barriers faced by Roma in Ireland in accessing public services such as housing and social security, particularly those created by the application of the Habitual Residence Condition (in the context of social security) and Housing Circular 41/2012.
- Ireland must implement UNCESR’s recommendation to review the Habitual Residence Condition “so as to eliminate its discriminatory impact on access to social security benefits, particularly among disadvantaged and marginalized individuals and groups”.
Free Legal Advice Centres (FLAC), an independent NGO which for over fifty years has been working to promote equal access to justice in Ireland. 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.
FLAC offers basic legal information through its telephone information line (1890 350 250). Free legal advice is available from volunteer lawyers through a countrywide network of advice clinics (these clinics are currently conducted over the phone) – more at www.flac.ie/help/. FLAC provides legal advice directly to members of both the Roma Community and The Irish Traveller Community via specialist legal clinics. FLAC also campaigns on a range of issues including consumer credit, personal debt, and fairness in social welfare law, public interest law and civil legal aid.
- Find out more about the Pre-sessions at https://www.upr-info.org/en/upr-process/pre-sessions
- FLAC’s UPR submission is available here: https://www.flac.ie/publications/flac-submission-to-the-office-of-the-united-nation/
- FLAC also made a submission to the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth’s consultation on the “National Report” Ireland will submit to the UPR - https://www.flac.ie/publications/flac-submission-to-the-department-of-children-equa/
- The UN’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is an important human rights mechanism which allows activists to put pressure on governments from the outside. During its review, each country receives recommendations for improvement from other countries. FLAC have attended all previous UPR sessions
FLAC Fact sheets on our key asks are available at the links below