Annual Report 2009
Please note that this information is dated as of a specified time and may not be legally valid.
Highlights from FLAC's Annual Report 2009:
- Some 10,154 calls were made to FLAC's telephone information and referral line in 2009, an increase of just under 10% over 2008. The organisation also answered over 1000 e-mail enquiries for information or referral.In the legal advice centres, FLAC volunteers gathered information on 8730 queries, up from 7233 in 2008.
- Overall family law is the largest area of enquiry in civil law across all FLAC information services, averaging between 20 and 30% of queries. This is in continued contrast with the state Legal Aid Board's almost exclusive focus on family law, which forms more than 90% of its work.
- Other prominent areas are employment law and debt law. Statistics from FLAC's telephone information line show a 300% increase in debt related calls from the public in 2009 compared to 2008 figures. Meanwhile debt-related queries to FLAC's centres have increased by 10%.
- More than 90% of all people who visited FLAC centres last year had not accessed a private or Legal Aid Board solicitor.
- In Galway City, in addition to the general FLAC service and the centre set up for Irish speakers, there are now three specialised clinics. New centres opened throughout the year, one in Tipperary Town, another in Nenagh and a third centre was set up in Tuam, Co Galway, which is open on a monthly basis. In Dublin a new centre has started in Ringsend while the existing service in Finglas has been extended to open twice weekly.
- In 2009 FLAC celebrated four decades of existence. An event in Dublin's Mansion House on 25 April was addressed by the President of Ireland Mary McAleese.It featured the four founders of FLAC - David Byrne SC, Ian Candy, Mr Justice Vivian Lavan and Denis McCullough SC.
- FLAC continued its work relating to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in 2009.Together with the Irish Council for Civil Liberties and the Irish Penal Reform Trust, the group that had submitted a Shadow Report in 2008, a follow-up conference was organised on 6 April 2009.
- A new project, the Public Interest Law Alliance, was launched in April 2009. The establishment of the project was the culmination of several years of work developing public interest law in Ireland.PILA hosted the inaugural meeting of PILA Lawyers Network, a mechanism for lawyers in Independent Law Centres and NGOs to exchange information and to share experience. It held the first in a series of seminars for practitioners, which centred on the European Convention on Human Rights in the UK and Ireland. It also hosted a roundtable on clinical legal education, the first of its kind in Ireland, which was attended by representatives from all third level institutions with law faculties and the legal professional bodies.
- FLAC issued a Checklist of practical actions in the event of losing your job in February 2009.
- FLAC's second major report on reform of the legal system in relation to debt enforcement was launched bysinger/songwriter Mary Coughlan in July 2009. This report, entitled To No One's Credit, detailed the results of a research study comprising interviews with 38 clients of the Money Advice and Budgeting Service, against whom debt enforcement action had been taken.
- The annual Dave Ellis Memorial Lecture for 2009 was especially devoted to the 40th anniversary year. Given by Dr Maurice Hayes on the subject of 'Access to Justice', the lecture took place on 1 December . An online archive of events from across FLAC's work was also launched that night by journalist and broadcaster Colin Murphy.
- FLAC continued to work on a series of cases where the Department of Social and Family Affairs refused to pay social welfare benefits to asylum seekers and people seeking humanitarian leave to remain in the State. Most of these cases were about Child Benefit but payments were involved also. Nine of the cases were applications to the Chief Social Welfare Appeals Officer to review appeal decisions and they all dealt with the HRC. He held that all nine applicants should receive benefits. In December 2009, the Government rushed through an amendment to the law to specifically exclude all people in the asylum process.
- FLAC launched a 30-page report, Civil Legal Aid in Ireland: Forty Years On, in April 2009. The report examines the scope of the civil legal aid scheme and how well it meets the needs of those who require legal aid to access justice; The practice and funding of the Legal Aid Board; Financial eligibility to qualify for civil legal aid;and a study of unmet legal need in the north east inner city area of Dublin.
- On 26 April FLAC hosted a poetry reading in the James Joyce House on Usher's Island, kindly facilitated by its curator and owner, Brendan Kilty SC. The reading, entitled 'Voices for Justice', featured celebrated poets Jane Hirshfield, Dennis O'Driscoll and John O'Donnell SC.