In the last week, while the members of the Oireachtas were making statements in response to the report of the Joint Committee on the 8th Amendment as well as the Citizens’ Assembly recommendations which it discussed, the spectre of repeal and replace has arisen again. The Citizens’ Assembly recommended the repeal of the 8th Amendment and its replacement with a provision “explicitly authorising the Oireachtas to address termination of pregnancy, any rights of the unborn and any rights of the pregnant woman”. It is broadly agreed that in doing so the Assembly was reflecting a concern with the possibility of residual constitutional foetal rights existing that might, through subsequent litigation, be found to frustrate or circumscribe the Oireachtas in legislating for abortion. The Joint Committee acknowledged that concern but, finding the risk of it materialising in ‘real life’ marginal, proposed instead a ‘repeal simpliciter’ that would delete Article 40.3.3 and not replace it with anything. We now hear that both the Taoiseach and, potentially, leader of Fianna Fáil Micheál Martin are concerned with the possible ramifications of repeal simpliciter, so that repeal and replace is firmly ‘back on the table’. In this post I outline (a) whether this is necessary, and (b) if it were to be pursued what the options are. Continue reading “Repeal and Replace?”
Fiona de Londras | @fdelond
There is going to be a referendum on the 8th Amendment in 2018. That much is clear. What we don’t yet know is what proposition will be put to the people. In part, this is because the Citizens Assembly recommended that Article 40.3.3 “should be replaced with a constitutional provision that explicitly authorises the Oireachtas to legislate to address termination of pregnancy, any rights of the unborn and any rights of the pregnant woman”. In doing this, it is very clear that the Assembly was concerned to ensure that the Oireachtas would have the power to introduce wide-ranging abortion law reform should it wish to do so; this is evident from the legislative recommendations it then went on to make. Whether the Assembly meant that the Oireachtas should be given an express power to legislate, or whether it meant that the Oireachtas should have the power to create law that would be immune from constitutional challenge is unclear: I discussed this here. What is clear, though, is that the Assembly wanted there to be no dispute about the power of the Parliament to make law for abortion. Why, then, did it recommend repeal rather than replace? Continue reading “Repeal or Replace?”
Fiona de Londras @fdelond
In yesterday’s hearing of the Committee on the 8th Amendment to the Constitution talk turned to the idea that a new constitutional provision might be crafted and introduced which would provide that any law on abortion would be immune from constitutional challenge. In his presentation to the Committee, David Kenny made it clear that this was what he took the Citizens’ Assembly to have meant by its recommendation. In my evidence I posited a different interpretation, namely “as a proposal designed to make explicit the power to legislate for abortion to the extent recommended in the legislative proposals made by the Assembly”. On reflection, either understanding is probably sustainable. Reading the transcripts of the Assembly again, I still consider that the concern with ensuring the Oireachtas had “exclusive” competence to make law for abortion was intended to ensure absolute clarity about the power to legislate for the issue, but it could also be interpreted as saying that in doing so the Oireachtas should be empowered to make a law that would be immune from constitutional review. If the latter interpretation were pursued, would this be desirable and what would be the implications? Continue reading “An Abortion Law Immune from Constitutional Review?”
The Irish Yearbook of International Law is now accepting submissions for the next Volume (Volume XIII (2018)). Edited by Professor Siobhán Mullaly (incoming at NUI Galway) and Professor Fiona de Londras (University of Birmingham) and published by Hart Publishing, the Yearbook is internationally peer reviewed and publishes longer and shorter articles on all areas of international law. The Irish Yearbook of International Law is committed to the publication of articles of general interest in international law as well as articles that have a particular connection to, or relevance for, Ireland. Articles are usually 10,000 to 12,000 words in length, although longer pieces will be considered. The Yearbook also publishes a small number of shorter articles and notes, which should not exceed 6,000 words.
Authors are asked to conform to the Hart Publishing house style. Submissions, comprising a brief 100-word abstract, article and confirmation of exclusive submission, should be sent to both Siobhán Mullally (email@example.com) and Fiona de Londras(firstname.lastname@example.org) by October 31 2017. Initial enquiries can be directed to either or both Editors.
People wishing to review a particular title in the Yearbook’s book review section are also invited to contact the book review editor Dr. Dug Cubie, email@example.com (University College Cork.)
Throughout the day I have been contacted by lawyers and others who are ready and able to help anyone caught up in the administration and application of the Executive Order in Irish airports. Here is the list. If you want to be added to it, please either let me know on twitter (@fdelond) or make it known in a comment to this post. We will keep updating this list.
Miriam WIlson-Hughes @Griff101
Matthew Kenny of O’Sullivan-Kenny Solicitors was in touch to offer help from the firm
John Anthony Devlin of Barron Morris Solicitors
Simon McGarr of McGarr Solicitors
Cahir O’Higgins Solicitors firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 018744744
Stephen Collins, Irish Refugee Council (see comments)
The Bar of Ireland runs a Voluntary Assistance Scheme for NGOs in need of assistance from barristers; we are sure they would help: @BarofIrelandVAS email: email@example.com
Gavin Elliot @sgelliot
Emma Slattery @epslattery
Paralegals, Legal Research, General Legal Knowledge
Jo Willis @jobw
Maria Hennessy @MP_Hennessy
Joan O’Connell firstname.lastname@example.org @clicky_here
Catherine Thullier (see comments below)
Donna Lyons, researcher & attorney-at-law (New York) email@example.com
Patricia MacBridge @IRLpatricia
Jennifer Schweppe (Limerick) @jschweppe
Darius Whelan (UCC) @dariuswirl
Siobhan Mullally (UCC) @smullallylaw
Fiona de Londras (Birmingham) @fdelond
Media, logistics and PR
Louise Williams @loureports
Practical Knowledge of CBP & Immigration
Colm Falherty @CJayFla
Colin Lenihan @colinlenihan
Irish citizens resident in the UK may be interested in hear that there is an All Party Parliamentary Group on Ireland and the Irish in Britain, the members of which are often receptive to correspondence from Irish citizens. Below is a text that might be useful for people who want to correspondent with them on the matter of the so-called ‘Muslim ban’ recently enacted in the United States of America.
Given your membership of the APPG on Ireland and the Irish in Britain, I am writing to you as an Irish person living in the UK to bring your attention to particular concerns relating to the so-called Muslim ban implemented by President Donald J. Trump.
As you may know, the Executive Order is to be applied in US preclearance areas, including in Dublin and Shannon Airports, as well as by air carriers worldwide. I am sure you will also be aware that an increasing number of UK residents travel to the US via Ireland, particularly to avail of the preclearance arrangements there.
I am writing to you to ask you to make enquiries of the Prime Minister and relevant other Ministers as to:
- Assurances that have been sought by the UK government from the Irish government that the rights of EU citizens, including UK citizens, while travelling through US preclearance in Irish airports are being fully protected.
- Details of representations from the UK government to the government of the United States of America to ensure its full compliance with international refugee law and international human rights law.
All over the United States this weekend lawyers and others have protested against this unlawful, cruel, Islamophobic and xenophobic attempt to undermine the rule of law. I ask you to ensure that the UK government stands with them.
Given the urgency of the situation, I would appreciate your swift response.
Here is a suggested text to the Irish Human Rights Commission for those who would like them to take steps available to them to assess whether the public bodies’ human rights duty under s. 42, IHREC Act 2014 is being complied with.
Emily Logan, Chief Commissioner
Irish Human Rights & Equality Commission
16-22 Green Street
Dear Ms. Logan and members of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission,
As you will be aware, the US Executive Order “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States” is applicable in US Preclearance areas in Dublin and Shannon Airports.
Both the Agreement between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of Ireland on Air Transport Preclearance (2008) and the Aviation (Preclearance) Act 2009 make clear that an Garda Síochána and Customs and Excise officials of the Revenue Commissioners are involved in the administration of the preclearance arrangements and area.
I am writing to ask you to take the appropriate steps to assess whether all Irish public bodies involved in the administration of the preclearance area and agreement are acting in compliance with their duties under s. 42 of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act 2014.
We suggest below a draft letter that people concerned with the application of the Executive Order in US pre clearance in Irish airports might find useful should they wish to write to TDs in relation to it. Of course, people should adjust it to reflect their preferred language and approach to the issue, but we hope it might be useful.
I am writing to you [as a constituent [and] citizen] to express my deep concern about the continued operation of the Aviation (Preclearance) Act 2009 and associated agreements in Irish airports during the administration of President Donald J. Trump.
In the first week and a half of his presidency we have already seen Trump attempt to subvert the Immigration and Nationality Act 1965 in order to apply discrimination in immigration and undermine international refugee law through Executive Order. As a result of the preclearance agreement between Ireland and the USA, this Order is being applied on Irish soil and in Irish airports. As you will be aware, Article II(1) of that agreement makes it clear that Irish law continues to apply in those preclearance areas. The application of this Order may result in, for example, EU Citizens with dual citizenship with a listed country experiencing nationality based discrimination, facilitated by Irish law, in clear contravention of the TFEU. I remind you also that it is not possible effectively to renounce citizenship in Iran, Syria, Libya and Yemen.
I remind you that under the 2009 Act, those turned away at preclearance are at the frontiers of the state and must be treated in accordance with Irish law. The Irish state also has obligations of non-refoulement which may arise. Furthermore, any Irish officials including Gardaí who may be involved in any way in policing the preclearance area are obliged as always to act in full compliance with the Constitution and with the ECHR.
Even if Congress supports President Trump’s policies through legislation, thus amending the 1965 Act inasmuch as that is constitutionally permissible, Ireland must ensure that rights under the Irish Constitution continue to be protected in these preclearance areas, and that violations of international law are not facilitated through the application of the agreement.
Bearing all of the above in mind, I would be grateful if you could please seek from the Taoiseach and appropriate minister, and provide me with, details of the following:
A. Measures that are being taken to ensure that unlawful discrimination is not being undertaken or facilitated at Irish airports through the application of Trump policy in preclearance areas.
B. Measures that the Irish government is taking to ensure that international refugee law is not subverted through the application of Trump policy in preclearance areas.
C. Mechanisms in place to ensure Ireland’s obligations under the TFEU, the ECHR and other applicable international law are fully complied with in preclearance areas.
D. Procedures for withdrawal from the preclearance agreement and bases upon which withdrawal would be contemplated by the Irish government
All over the United States this weekend lawyers and others have protested against this unlawful, cruel, Islamophobic and xenophobic attempt to undermine the rule of law. I ask the Oireachtas and the Irish government, in my name, to stand with them. I also ask you to ensure that Ireland provides protection to people seeking asylum from Syria, in particular, who President Trump seeks to preclude from receiving refugee status in the United States.
Given the evident urgency of the matter, I look forward to your swift response.
Like many others, I have been thinking about and discussing Miller (R (Miller) v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union  EWHC 2768) with colleagues today. This is the decision from the High Court that the Government cannot trigger Article 50 in order to begin the process of withdrawal from the EU without getting Parliamentary authorisation first.
Put very shortly (and without wanting to get too far into the details of the reasoning per se), this is because the Court found that, as a constitutional statute and one that created domestic rights and anchored EU rights, the European Communities Act 1972 could not be turned to naught by the Executive. The prerogative power had been constrained by this Act, and it was not within the royal prerogative to make even international treaty decisions (such as withdrawing from the EU) that would disturb this domestic statute. In other words, parliamentary authorisation is required before Article 50 is triggered and the formal process of leaving the EU can begin.
There are already, and will in the coming days, be lots of analyses on the reasoning per se from a constitutional law perspective (see, for example, the reflections of Paul Daly, Kenneth Armstrong and Aileen McHarg). My purpose here is to offer a few reflections more broadly on the implications of the judgment, especially for those more interested in its practical meaning for Brexit than in its (unquestioned) broad constitutional significance per se. Continue reading “The Practical Implications of Miller v SSEEU for Brexit: Nine Reflections”
In a decision that will not have come as a surprise to those who are attentive to either international human rights law or abortion law in Ireland, the UN Human Rights Committee has found that the applicant, AM’s, rights under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights were violated by her having to travel for an abortion in a situation of fatal foetal abnormality. The decision itself merits analysis, and the concurrence of Prof Sarah Cleveland is especially powerful. However, in this short post I want to assess the implications of this decision for constitutional politics in Ireland.
The government argued (as it has done before) that the Constitution reflects the will of the People on a question of moral significance and disagreement. This is summarized in para 4.2 of the opinion:
The State party asserts that article 40.3.3 of the Constitution represents the profound moral choices of the Irish people. Yet, at the same time, the Irish people have acknowledged the entitlement of citizens to travel to other jurisdictions for the purposes of obtaining terminations of pregnancy. The legislative framework guarantees the citizens’ entitlement to information in relation to abortion services provided abroad. Thus, the constitutional and legislative framework reflects the nuanced and proportionate approach to the considered views of the Irish Electorate on the profound moral question of the extent to which the right to life of the foetus should be protected and balanced against the rights of the woman.
Whether one agrees with this representation of what the various referenda in question actually say about the will of the people (and this is subject to dispute), the key point here—and the Committee made this quite clear—is that lawfulness in domestic law does not excuse, nullify, or even mitigate unlawfulness in international law. In other words, from an international law perspective, the fact that this is a constitutional position does not make any real difference to its acceptability. A violation of international law still arises, and it is one that the state is required as a matter of international law to resolve.
Here, of course, is where the fact that this is a constitutional (rather than a merely legislative) position does pose a challenge. In Ireland, as is well known, the Constitution can only be formally amended by a referendum of the People. Thus, if the Constitution does prohibit abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities, and if that puts Ireland in violation of its international obligations, then a referendum is the appropriate vehicle to resolving that dispute.
This is tricky. Governments cannot guarantee that the conflict between the constitutional standard and the international standard will be resolved; they cannot copper fasten the outcome of the referendum. Where a referendum to ensure compatibility with international standards is unsuccessful, the state remains in violation although it can at least claim that reasonable efforts to resolve that violation have been made. In the absence of a referendum, however, no such claim can be made.
In fact, a failure to hold a referendum both torpedoes the claimed justification for the incompatibility and reveals an unwillingness to resolve that incompatibility. That is, unless a referendum is held to ensure the availability of abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormality the state can neither justifiably claim that it is the will of the people to maintain a ban on such abortions notwithstanding incompatibility with international human rights law, nor claim to be hand-tied in terms of resolving that incompatibility.
Thus, if it really is the case that the 8th Amendment prohibits such abortions a referendum is unavoidable from an international law perspective. That is not because international law can force a state to hold a referendum, but rather because (a) the incompatibility flows from a constitutional provision, and (b) the only means of constitutional change is by referendum.
It is worth noting that it is not at all clear that Article 40.3.3 really does require the criminalisation of abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormality. We know that the provision does not require any activities that are futile, and that the foetal right to life is both to be balanced against the right to life of the pregnant woman and protected only as far as practicable. It is quite within the capacity of the Government to amendment the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013 to allow for abortions in these cases, and allow the Supreme Court to assess the strength of the arguments in favour thereof from a constitutional law perspectives. Certainly, there would be difficulties with this—the Government would have to reverse its long-standing position, the Court would be asked to revisit a deeply contentious judgment (AG v X) and assess the extent to which it is a conclusive statement of the meaning of Article 40.3.3, and arguably the common understanding of the provision in question is that it does prohibit such abortions so that there would be a clear concern about subverting the Constitution. A referendum might, thus, be preferable.
But one thing is sure, this decision reinforces the position long-held by many: Article 40.3.3 is unsustainable, unsuitable, and incompatible with human rights. A referendum is urgently required.
This post is by Professor Fiona de Londras, University of Birmingham School of Law. She can be contacted by email at f.delondras[at]bham.ac.uk