FLAC welcomes IHREC’s focus on access to justice and calls for Government to begin overdue legal aid review
10 February 2022
Speaking following the launch of IHREC’s Strategic Plan 2022-2024 today, Eilis Barry, CE of the human rights charity FLAC welcomed the commission’s commitment to access to justice.
In particular FLAC welcomes IHREC highlighting the need to ‘broaden access to legal aid’ as part of its strategic plan. FLAC is renewing its call for the Government’s planned review of the current civil legal aid scheme to begin as a matter of urgency. It is vital that progress begins now.
Eilis Barry, FLAC CE said;
“It is so important to see the State's national statutory human rights and specialised equality body, IHREC echoing FLAC’s concerns of the current limited civil legal aid system. It clearly demonstrates the need for the government’s planned root and branch review of the scheme to begin immediately.
“FLAC’s Telephone Information and Referral Line is inundated with callers in need of legal information and advice, at a time of great stress and often immense hardship. We hear from callers of their inability to meet the Legal Aid Board’s strict means test or the long wait times they experience.
Further, it is timely that just yesterday The United Nations Human Rights Council published its report on foot the recent review of Ireland’s Human Rights record through the Universal Periodic Review mechanism (UPR). In its response to that report, Ireland has accepted over 200 recommendations. Notably four recommendations were in relation to the State’s system of Civil Legal Aid, highlighting at an international level the deficiencies in Ireland’s system of Civil Legal Aid.
As a result, Ireland has now committed to a comprehensive and independent review of the Civil Legal Aid System and has also committed to examine social welfare and equality issues.
Ms. Barry added;
“A review of the system was announced at the beginning of 2021 with a view to beginning in summer last year, however we are still awaiting details of this review, its scope and timeline, and we urge the Minister for Justice to prioritise this as a matter of necessity.”
FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres) is an Irish human rights organisation, which exists to promote equal access to justice. 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 on 01 906 10 10.
Our phone line operates Monday to Friday from 9.30am-1pm. With an additional phone line information service on Monday evenings from 7-9pm for callers who cannot call during the morning.
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.
IHREC strategic plan available here https://www.ihrec.ie/app/uploads/2022/02/IHREC_StrategyStatement_FA-v2.pdf
The report of United Nation Human Rights Council Human Rights UPR Working Group on the outcome of Ireland’s most recent review (and all UPR recommendations) is available here: https://undocs.org/A/HRC/49/18
The State’s response to that Report is available here: https://undocs.org/A/HRC/49/18/Add.1
Ireland accepted the following four recommendations in relation to Civil Legal Aid:
157.124 Undertake a comprehensive and independent review of the legal aid system for civil cases and ensure equal treatment before the courts (Belarus).
157.125 Continue its efforts and consider reform measures related to the legal aid system to ensure improved legal aid schemes, particularly for low-income groups (Bhutan).
157.126 Broaden efforts to increase legal and financial aid in enabling the vulnerable, migrants and asylum seekers to fully access justice and addressing their social welfare and equality issues (Cambodia).
157.127 Review its civil legal aid system and put into place a mechanism to ensure that disadvantaged and marginalized individuals and groups benefit from better access to the law, in accordance with target 16.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals (Switzerland).
FLAC is an independent NGO which for over fifty years has been working to promote equal access to justice in Ireland.