Reflections on the Citizens Assembly (1): The presentation of Dr Helen Watt

We are pleased to welcome this guest post from Donnchadh O’Conaill, of the Department of Philosophy, History, Culture and Art Studies at the University of Helsinki. This is the first of a series of posts Donnchadh is writing on presentations of ethicists to the Citizens Assembly.

Regardless of what one thinks about the need for a Citizen’s Assembly, its deliberations have already thrown up a number of interesting approaches to thinking about ethical issues, particularly concerning abortion. What follows is a series of articles on the presentations by ethicists to the assembly, examining the arguments that they offer and their potential implications for a possible referendum to repeal the 8th Amendment.

Dr. Helen Watt presented an argument against abortion which was of interest, particularly in the context of Irish debates about abortion, in not relying (at least not explicitly) on religious doctrine. Indeed, Watt’s arguments rest on certain assumptions which are difficult or impossible to reconcile with the beliefs of many religions, for instance the belief in an immortal soul. But as with more familiar religiously-motivated discussions, Watt’s argument appeals to the nature of the foetus to justify its having a certain moral status. By the ‘nature’ of the foetus I mean not just its physical or biological features but those features which might be thought to give it moral significance in and of itself, regardless of what anyone thinks about it. This kind of moral significance is what is usually meant when ethicists speak of the ‘moral status’ of the foetus. Continue reading “Reflections on the Citizens Assembly (1): The presentation of Dr Helen Watt”

Reflections on the Citizens Assembly (1): The presentation of Dr Helen Watt

Intensifying the glare of the United Nations’ spotlight

We are pleased to publish this guest post from Ciarán Finlay, Legal & Policy Officer with the Free Legal Advice Centres (FLAC).

The value of shining an international spotlight on domestic human rights issues has long been recognised by civil society organisations working in Ireland. Prior experience has shown that international scrutiny by United Nations (UN) bodies and experts can yield tangible results in the form of positive state action.

However, while domestic actors place much emphasis on periodic reporting to UN Human Rights Treaty Bodies and the Universal Periodic Review mechanism, considerably less focus is placed on engagement with UN Special Procedures mandate holders and taking individual complaints to UN Treaty Bodies. Continue reading “Intensifying the glare of the United Nations’ spotlight”

Intensifying the glare of the United Nations’ spotlight

Call for Papers: ‘International and Comparative Law in the 21st Century: Lessons learned?’

The deadline for submission of abstracts to the PGR and early career conference to be held in Griffith College Dublin on 10 June 2016, and entitled ‘International and Comparative Law in the 21st Century: Lessons learned?’, is Friday 8th April 2016 at 5pm

 

The keynote speaker will be full time Commissioner of the Law Reform Commission, Finola Flanagan.  She was previously Director General of the Office of the Attorney General and, more recently, she was co-ordinator of EU and ECHR law in Ireland. She is a member of the Venice Commission, the Council of Europe’s advisory body on constitutional matters and has acted as rapporteur on a number of its Opinions.

 

Applicants are requested to submit a 300 word abstract of the paper which they intend to present to lawconference@griffith.ie which will be peer-reviewed by the selection Committee.

There will be an Award for the candidate who presents the best paper. In order to be considered for the ‘Best Paper’ Award, candidates must submit a full length paper of no more than 2,000 words in addition to the 300 word abstract. If you wish to be considered for the ‘Best Paper’ award, please indicate so clearly in your submission email.

Deadline: The final date for abstract submissions is Friday 8th April at 5pm.

Timeline: The Conference Committee will send acceptance notifications and paper feedback in April 2016.

Contact details: Please e-mail lawconference@griffith.ie should you have any queries in this regard.

Fee: €30 per delegate. This will include refreshments and a light lunch.

Call for Papers: ‘International and Comparative Law in the 21st Century: Lessons learned?’

Michelle Farrell on Freedom from Fear

“The fourth is freedom from fear—which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor—anywhere in the world.”

– Franklin Delano Roosevelt

I am delighted, as part of the University of Iowa Centre for Human Rights’ 75th anniversary celebration of the Four Freedoms Speech, to consider Roosevelt’s fourth and final freedom – freedom from fear. David Keane pondered whether the four freedoms ought to be considered in terms of hierarchy and he suggested that freedom of speech might come out tops – not just because it is the first of the freedoms but because freedom of speech is a “gateway” right. This may be so but freedom from fear outranks the others in its own ways. On the one hand, freedom from fear was the most ambitious of Roosevelt’s four (although ‘freedom from want’ puts up quite the challenge). Freedom from fear represented the aspiration of an international prohibition on aggression or, indeed, the “human right to peace”[1]. There is though another way of reading Roosevelt’s fourth freedom. Freedom from fear was in fact the leitmotif of the entire speech. Fear is invoked ambiguously – equivocally, even – both as a provocation, to rally public support and to justify American intervention in the war, and as a promise, of future freedom. In other words, Roosevelt was telling the American public – in order to enjoy this freedom, in order to secure freedom from fear, we must go to war. From a rhetorical perspective, by neatly and rhythmically rounding off the four freedoms, freedom from fear represented the alliterative crowning glory of Roosevelt’s speech and his call to intervention. Continue reading “Michelle Farrell on Freedom from Fear”

Michelle Farrell on Freedom from Fear

Brian Farrell on Freedom from Want

“The third is freedom from want . . . everywhere in the world.”

– Franklin Delano Roosevelt

The first and second of the Four Freedoms articulated by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt during his State of the Union speech on January 6, 1941, would have seemed familiar and comfortable to most listeners. After all, the freedom of speech and freedom of religion were two classic limits on the power of government – what we often call “negative” rights, or civil and political rights. Such rights were at the core of the American constitutional order, enshrined in the Bill of Rights.

As Roosevelt continued his speech, he identified two additional Freedoms of a very different character. The third of the Four Freedoms was “freedom from want – which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants – everywhere in the world.” This was followed by freedom from fear. Unlike the first two Freedoms, these did not limit government interference with the individual; rather, they contemplated an affirmative government obligation to deliver these societal necessities to its citizens. Continue reading “Brian Farrell on Freedom from Want”

Brian Farrell on Freedom from Want

Darcy on Freedom of Religion

“The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way – everywhere in the world”.

– Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

I am pleased to contribute a short essay to the University of Iowa Center of Human Rights’ celebration of the ‘Four Freedoms’ speech, delivered by United States President Roosevelt in January 1941. Those working in this field are well aware that the speech itself and the context of the Second World War in which it was made gave significant impetus to important human rights developments, including the emergence of an international system aimed at protecting and promoting human rights. That system continues to evolve, to elaborate on the substance and meaning of human rights, and to identify where responsibility lies for ensuring respect for human rights. Continue reading “Darcy on Freedom of Religion”

Darcy on Freedom of Religion

Keane on Freedom of Speech and Expression

“The first is freedom of speech and expression – everywhere in the world.”
– Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Should we think of the four freedoms in terms of a hierarchy? If so, then freedom of speech and expression comes top, as the first enumerated in Roosevelt’s speech, although the speech itself gives no indication beyond the numbers that some of the freedoms are of more importance than others. In contemporary international human rights law, the United Nations emphasises that “[a]ll human rights are universal, indivisible and interdependent and interrelated”, meaning that there is no ranking. For many however, freedom of speech and expression is a ‘gateway right’ essential to the realisation of all other rights. In other words, it is more important than many other rights for it underscores the conditions required for the realisation of a just domestic and world order essential to the articulation and implementation of global rights standards. Thus the 1789 French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, a precursor of the contemporary documents, described free communication of thoughts and opinions as “one of the most precious rights” (Article 11). Continue reading “Keane on Freedom of Speech and Expression”

Keane on Freedom of Speech and Expression

Celebrating Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms

We are very pleased to republish a series of short essays relating to the ‘Four Freedoms’ Statue of the Union by Roosevelt in January 1941. The essays were originally published by the University of Iowa Centre for Human Rights. Here they are introduced by Brian Farrell, the Centre’s associate director.

 *  *  *  *

 January 6, 2016, marks the seventy-fifth anniversary of a significant milestone in the recognition and protection of human rights. On January 6, 1941, with war raging in Europe and the Pacific, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt delivered his State of the Union address to Congress. Although the United States was not yet fighting in the Second World War, Roosevelt argued against isolationism, warning that “the future and safety of our country and of our democracy are overwhelmingly involved in events far beyond our borders.” He went on to discuss the country’s policy of national defense, support for other democratic nations, and a just peace. Continue reading “Celebrating Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms”

Celebrating Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms

Penetrating States of Denial: Accounting for Conflict Related Violence in Northern Ireland

We are pleased to welcome this guest post from Dr Aoife Duffy, Lecturer in International Human Rights Law at the Irish Centre for Human Rights, National University of Ireland Galway

On 10 November 2015, a 66-year-old ex Lance Corporal of the British Army’s Parachute Regiment was arrested in relation to the killing of three individuals who died during Bloody Sunday, which resulted in the deaths of 14 civilians following an anti-internment march in Derry on 30 January 1972. Accounting for conflict related violence and killings committed by the security forces in Northern Ireland has been problematic due to the hegemonic position of official discoures related to conflict, underpinned by various denial strategies, as outlined by Stanley Cohen in his seminal work, States of Denial: Knowing About Atrocities and Suffering. In Northern Ireland, a structure of denial was sustained at various points throughout the UK administration and the military-security establishment, including through close cooperation between between senior officers in the British army and the Attorney General regarding the prosecution of soldiers on serious criminal charges. The General Officer Commanding (GOC) the British Army in Northern Ireland, Sir Frank King, met with the Attorney General on 8 January 1974 and subsequently wrote to one of the most senior officers in the British Army, the Adjutant General Sir Cecil Blacker, based at Ministry of Defence offices in Whitehall, about the meeting. In short, General King was reassured by the position taken by the Attorney General, who informed him in no uncertain terms that ‘not only he himself but also the DPP and senior members of his staff, having been army officers themselves, having seen active service and knowing at first-hand about the difficulties and dangers faced by soldiers, were by no means unsympathetic or lacking in understanding in their approach to soldier prosecutions in Northern Ireland.’ Approximately 350 deaths were caused by state security forces between 1969 and 1994, and the army were responsible for 90% of these killings between 1969 and 1974. 54.1% of those killed by the security forces in Northern Ireland were civilians and 84% of these victims were Catholic. General King was informed that only 10% of the cases submitted to the DPP were prosecuted; that borderline cases (he cited the shooting of Joseph McCann) were routinely dropped, ‘unless there was evidence of brutality or callousness on the part of that soldier or evidence that the soldier had clearly, unjustifiably and substantially overstepped the mark in the use of force.’ Continue reading “Penetrating States of Denial: Accounting for Conflict Related Violence in Northern Ireland”

Penetrating States of Denial: Accounting for Conflict Related Violence in Northern Ireland

Morrissey on the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Bill and Advance Directives

Dr. Fiona Morrissey completed a PhD in mental health law at NUI Galway in 2014. She is a member of a number of expert panels on mental health and capacity law reform and acts as a reviewer for a number of international journals and the World Health Organisation (WHO). Fiona sits on the National Advisory Committee (Research, Impact and Evaluation workgroup) for Sage (Support & Advocacy Service for Older People). Her national study on advance healthcare directives can be accessed at http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352552515001048

Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Bill: Why Equality is needed in the Proposed Laws on Advance Healthcare Directives. Some decisions are less equal than others

The Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Bill 2013 is due before the Seanad on the 9th of December and is scheduled to be enacted into law this year. This is an important piece of legislation, which may apply to any one of us now or in the future. The Bill aims to secure supports and safeguards for any person who may have difficulty making a decision due to a disability, Alzheimer’s disease, a road traffic accident or a period of ‘mental distress’. The legislation includes provisions for advance healthcare directives, which will allow us to specify future treatment or other life choices in a legal document and/or to appoint a trusted decision-maker, in the event we have difficulty communicating or making a decision for ourselves in the future. In these circumstances, the advance healthcare directive will help your doctor or a family member understand your wishes regarding medical treatment or other life choices and specify who you trust to communicate these wishes or to make decisions in accordance with your beliefs and values.  Continue reading “Morrissey on the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Bill and Advance Directives”

Morrissey on the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Bill and Advance Directives