Ireland goes before the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

UN imageOn Monday, June 8th and Tuesday, June 9th 2015, Ireland will have its third periodic report under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), assessed by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. You can follow this examination on Twitter, using the hashtag #UNIRL

What are economic, social and cultural rights?

The right to work, just conditions of employment, the right to social security and social assistance, the right to health, housing, food and water, encompass core aspects of socio-economic rights. Cultural rights include the right to participate in the culture of one’s communities and to enjoy the benefits of scientific and technological endeavour. These rights (and others) are protected in ICESCR.

Ireland before the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

To date, Ireland has had two periodic reports (1999 and 2002) considered by the UN Committee. On both occasions, the Committee have expressed concern that Ireland has not incorporated ICESCR into domestic law, and the lack of reference and utilisation of ICESCR by the superior courts. Ireland has failed to adopt rights based frameworks in areas of anti-poverty, disability provision of health-care, rights of members of the Traveller community, housing and the low rate of social assistance payments. CESCR identified some core issues with Ireland’s compliance with its obligations under ICESCR in December 2014, and the list of issues to be discussed bear striking similarities to concerns previously expressed by CESCR in their 1999 and 2002 Concluding Observations. (See, Ireland’s response to these issues here). Continue reading “Ireland goes before the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights”

Ireland goes before the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

Irish Community Development Law Journal: Focus on Social Welfare Law & Rights

CLM logoOn International Human Rights Day 2014, Community Law and Mediation has published volume 3(2) of the Irish Community Development Law Journal. This edition has a special focus on social welfare rights. Contributors to this edition include:

Mary Murphy, Ireland’s Lone Parents: Social Welfare and Recession

Liam Thornton, The Rights of Others: Asylum Seekers and Direct Provision in Ireland

Pia Janning, Ireland’s Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Obligations and Budgetary Policy

Rosemary Hennigan & Molly Joyce, Public Interest Litigation & Access to the Courts: As Far as Practicable? 

You can access the full text of these articles here.

Irish Community Development Law Journal: Focus on Social Welfare Law & Rights

Direct Provision and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)

UN imageThe Seanad Éireann Public Consultation Committee is inviting public submissions on Ireland’s Fourth Periodic Report under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The issue of direct provision is one that the UN Human Rights Committee, the independent body responsible for assessing Ireland’s compliance with the ICCPR, has asked the Irish government to provide information on (see ICCPR list of issues and Ireland’s reply to list of issues).

The issue of direct provision was raised by a number of shadow reports from civil society organisations, in particular by the Free Legal Advice Centres (here), the Irish Human Rights Commission (here) ,  the Irish Council of Civil Liberties (here) and the Irish Refugee Council (here).  The enormous work  by these organisations have ensured that the issue of direct provision for asylum seekers remains on the UN human rights agenda.

I have made a submission on The System of Direct Provision and Ireland’s Obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to the Seanad Public Consultation Committee. In this submission, I note that all human rights are interdependent and indivisible, violations of economic, social and cultural rights may lead to violations of civil and political rights.  The three core arguments I make to the Seanad Éireann Public Consultation Committee  are:

  1. Ireland is fully aware of the significant negative impact that direct provision is having on a large number of families and individuals.
  2. The direct provision complaints system lacks any independent oversight. This must be remedied as a matter of urgency.
  3. The operation of the direct provision system is bordering on inhuman and degrading treatment, given the length of time individuals and families will have to remain in the system. Given the level of social control, poverty and enforced idleness imposed on asylum seekers for several years, the State is also violating rights to private and family life and rights to be treated equally before the law.

You can read my full submission here.

Direct Provision and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)

Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Ireland – Why the Constitution?

Constitutional ConventionWe are delighted to welcome this post from Katie Boyle on economic, social and cultural (ESC) rights in the Irish Constitution. Katie is a PhD student at the University of Limerick and an ESRC Research Fellow at the University of Edinburgh. She is also a solicitor and has previously advised state departments and parliamentary bodies on human rights compliance. Katie has lectured in both Ireland and the UK on International Human Rights, Public Law and Constitutional Law. Continue reading “Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Ireland – Why the Constitution?”

Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Ireland – Why the Constitution?

Ireland and the European Committee on Social Rights

ESCThere has been much focus on the role of the European Court of Human Rights over the last number of days (see, here and here). A less well known body, the European Committee on Social Rights, is responsible for assessing Ireland’s compliance with the European Social Charter (Revised). The European Social Charter protects a number of social and economic rights, such as employment rights, right to health care, social security, an adequate standard of living etc. Ireland has freely accepted to abide by a large number of obligations (but not all) under the European Social Charter. As my summary of the Committee’s conclusions below show, this report is somewhat of a mixed bag. It is important to note that the  Committee on Social Rights examined Ireland’s compliance with the European Social Charter from 2008 to 2011, so a number of important issues that arose since 2011 are not considered, including the attacks on youth right to full rate unemployment benefit/assistance; maternity benefit cuts; the cumulative impact of successive regressive budgets on those who are already poor and marginalised. In addition, it was somewhat disappointing that the Committee did not mention or consider the social and economic rights of asylum seekers (as it has done in collective complaints).

The European Committee on Social Rights has released its Conclusions on Ireland for 2013 on a number of different rights protected by the European Social Charter, including:

Ireland and the European Committee on Social Rights

The Right to Water and Privatisation in Ireland

We are delighted to welcome another cross-post by Dr Shane Darcy from the Business and Human Rights in Ireland Blog.  The Business and Human Rights in Ireland Blog is dedicated to tracking and analysing developments relating to business and human rights in Ireland. It aims to address legal and policy issues, as well as highlighting human rights concerns raised by the activities of Irish companies or multinational corporations based in Ireland. The blog is run by Dr Shane Darcy who is a lecturer at the Irish Centre for Human Rights, National University of Ireland Galway.

The privatisation of water in Ireland may be imminent. In its correspondence with the International Monetary Fund, the Irish Government has stated its intention to “move towards full cost-recovery in the provision of water services”. This involves the introduction of water charges, metering and the establishment of a State agency, Irish Water. The Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government say Irish Water is a public utility, and that “there is absolutely no intention to privatise water services”.

Nonetheless, the centralisation of water provision from local authorities in one entity would certainly make privatisation easier. As does the introduction of a customer-supplier relationship by way of charges and metering, as Ryan Meade has noted. The Irish Times ran an article in February 2013 with the headline ‘Dail warned legislation will open floodgates for new Irish Water to be privatised’.  Former Green Party Minister John Gormley sees the establishment of the water authority as the first step to privatisation. However, according to Minister of State for Natural Resources Fergus O’Dowd last month:

there will be a legal guarantee to give an absolute assurance as best we can that there will be no question of privatisation arising as an issue.

A qualified commitment from a Government under pressure from the IMF and the EU (with its controversial proposed Concessions Directive). In light of the introduction of water charges, legislation is reportedly to be adopted addressing exemptions, including for those who might not be able to afford the charges.

What does international human rights law say about water and its privatization? None of the major treaties refer to a right to water, although it can be taken as implicit in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. It was only in 2010 that the United Nations General Assembly adopted a declaration on the right to water. The declaration recognizes “the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights”. Ireland abstained from the vote on the declaration.

The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights does not seem to oppose Continue reading “The Right to Water and Privatisation in Ireland”

The Right to Water and Privatisation in Ireland

A Right to Health Care in Ireland?

Human Rights in Ireland is pleased to welcome this guest post from Rosalind McKenna, Human Rights in Ireland Coordinator, Amnesty International Ireland as part of Human Rights Week 2012.

Twenty-three years have passed since Ireland became Party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Twenty three years of successive governments failing to domestically incorporate the Covenant into Irish law, or otherwise reflect the commitments undertaken in policy or practice.

In the absence of a commitment to constitutionally protect these rights, Amnesty International Ireland has been examining how legislation can be used to advance policy in line with international human rights standards. The Irish Human Rights Commission has outlined the advantages to protecting rights in legislation; these standards defining minimum core content of the right, stipulating financial arrangements for the delivery of rights, promoting accountability by prescribing exact responsibilities and functions of different levels of government, and preventing / prohibiting violations by public bodies or officials.

In particular, we are campaigning for legislation to drive forward the implementation of mental health policy, and to underpin forthcoming healthcare reform.

For nearly 30 years Ireland has been striving to reform its mental health services, with change slow and accountability inadequate. Successive government policies have called for fundamental reform of the mental health system (Planning for the Future (1984) and A Vision for Change (2006)). A Vision for Change called for a person-centred, recovery-oriented and holistic approach to mental health services. It called for a shift from the existing system, with an over-reliance on institutional care, to a system of community-based care provided by multi-disciplinary teams.

Human rights law demands that mental health services be continuously improved in line with Continue reading “A Right to Health Care in Ireland?”

A Right to Health Care in Ireland?

Ireland to sign the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

The Department of Foreign Affairs has announced that Ireland is to sign the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). This is a welcome decision by the Government, though no date has been set for ratification. In many ways ratification is the most important step as it enables individuals to rely on the Optional Protocol, however the decision to sign the Protocol should be welcomed. The ICESCR was opened for signature, alongside its companion treaty, the International Covenant for Civil and Poltical Rights (ICCPR) in 1966 and came into operation in 1976. The decision to separate these rights is rooted in both Cold War politics and the belief of some states at the time and currently that Economic, Social and Cultural Rights should not have the same enforcement mechinisms and are of a different character to their Civil and Political Rights counterparts. This stance is also reflected in the status of the section on the Directive Principles on Social Policy in the Irish Constitution.

Ireland signed the ICCPR in 1973 and ratified it in 1989. In the same year, Ireland also ratified the ICCPR’s Optional Protocol, which allows individuals to take claims to the ICCPR’s attached Committee. The Optional Protocol for the ICESCR was not open for signature until 2008. ICESCR’s Optional Protocol also allows individuals to take complaints based on the treaty to its attached Committee (CESCR). Continue reading “Ireland to sign the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights”

Ireland to sign the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

Human Rights and Irish (Political) Cultural Change

At last weeks first birthday workshop on human rights in Ireland, Fergus Ryan from DIT, suggested that the crucial problem for human rights activists in Ireland was that decisions at the ECHR or Supreme Court were seen as the end of the story, ignoring what he called the ‘cultural change’ necessary for successful human rights action. He argued that you cannot adduce this or that ECHR decision in a political argument and expect that to be the end of the matter. Rather, it is necessary for people to culturally buy-in to human rights. To this point, Mark Kelly of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties asked; how long do we have to wait for cultural change. I want to suggest that Continue reading “Human Rights and Irish (Political) Cultural Change”

Human Rights and Irish (Political) Cultural Change