Referenda, Anyone?


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A press conference held by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties today to respond the UN Human Rights Committee report on Ireland (see below) at the Radisson Hotel, Dublin. From top: Chairperson of Atheist Ireland, Michael Nugent, and Independent TDs Clare Daly and Mick Wallace;  Mark Kelly, ICCL director, and Chairperson of Survivors of Symphysiotomy, Marie O’Connor; Director of the Irish Traveller Movement (ITM), Brigid Quilligan (left) and Director of the Trangender Equality Network Ireland (TENI), Broden Giambrone 

Last week, 16 civil society organisations from Ireland made submissions to the UN Human Rights Committee.

The committee has today responded.

On abortion

The State party [Ireland] should:
(a) Revise its legislation on abortion, including its Constitution, to provide for additional exceptions in cases of rape, incest, serious risks to the health of the mother, or fatal foetal abnormality; (b) Swiftly adopt the Guidance Document to clarify what constitutes a “real and substantive risk” to the life of the pregnant woman; and (c) Consider making more information on crisis pregnancy options available through a variety of channels, and ensure that healthcare providers who provide information on safe abortion services abroad are not subject to criminal sanctions.

On institutional abuse of women and children

The State party should conduct prompt, independent and thorough investigations into all allegations of abuse in Magdalene Laundries, children’s institutions and mother and baby homes, prosecute and punish the perpetrators with penalties commensurate with the gravity of the offence, and ensure that all victims obtain an effective remedy, including appropriate compensation, restitution, rehabilitation and measures of satisfaction.

On symphysiotomy

The State party should initiate a prompt, independent and thorough investigation into cases of symphysiotomy, prosecute and punish the perpetrators, including medical personnel, and provide an effective remedy to the survivors of symphysiotomy for the damage sustained, including fair and adequate compensation and rehabilitation, on an individualized basis. It should facilitate access to judicial remedies by victims opting for the ex-gratia scheme, including allowing a challenge to the sums offered to them under the scheme.

On non-consensual psychiatric treatment, use of electroshock and other restrictive and coercive practices in mental health services

The State party should ensure that non-consensual use of psychiatric medication, electroshock, and other restrictive and coercive practices in mental health services, is generally prohibited. Non-consensual psychiatric treatment may only be applied, if at all, in exceptional cases as a measure of last resort where absolutely necessary for the benefit of the person concerned, provided that he or she is unable to give consent, and for the shortest possible time without any long-term impact and under independent review. The State party should promote psychiatric care aimed at preserving the dignity of patients, both adults and minors. It should also amend the definition of voluntary patient under the Mental Health Act, 2001 so that the term only refers to a person who consents to admission and treatment, and bring the Assisted (Decision-Making) Capacity Bill of 2003 in line with international standards on the rights of persons with disabilities.

On police complaints

The State party should proceed with the timely adoption of the General Scheme of the Garda Síochána (Amendment) Bill 2014 to strengthen the independence and effectiveness of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission. It should also ensure that the proposed establishment of the Garda Síochána Authority does not encroach upon or undermine the work of GSOC, but rather complement and support it.

On imprisonment for failure to pay fines

The State party should fully implement the Fines (Payment and Recovery) Act 2014 to provide for a community service order as an alternative to imprisonment for failure to pay court ordered fines or civil debt, and ensure that in no case is imprisonment used as a method of enforcing contractual obligations.

On the right to counsel

The State party should guarantee, in law and in practice, the right to counsel prior to interrogation, and take concrete steps to facilitate the presence of lawyers during interrogation.

On asylum-seekers and refugees

The Committee recommends that the State party take appropriate legislative and policy measures to establish a single application procedure with a right of appeal to an independent appeals body without further delay, including the adoption of the 2008 Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill. It should also ensure that the duration of stay in Direct Provision centres is as short as possible and introduce an accessible and independent complaints procedure in Direct Provision centres.

On trafficking

The State party should ensure that effective and appropriate assistance and protection is afforded to potential victims of trafficking, including by adopting without further delay the necessary acts of legislation which are compatible with international legal standards.

On freedom of religion

The State party should take concrete steps to amend articles 12, 31 and 34 of the Constitution that require religious oaths to take up senior public office positions, taking into account the Committee’s general comment No. 22 (1993) concerning the right not to be compelled to reveal one’s thoughts or adherence to a religion or belief in public. It should also introduce legislation to prohibit discrimination in access to schools on the grounds of religion, belief or other status, and ensure that there are diverse school types and curriculum options available throughout the State party to meet the needs of minority faith or non-faith children. It should also amend Section 37(1) of the Employment Equality Acts in a way that bars all forms of discrimination in employment in the fields of education and health.

On Travellers and Roma

The State party should take concrete steps to recognise Travellers as an ethnic minority group, and amend the Housing Act of 2002 to meet the specific accommodation requirements of Traveller families. In light of the abolishment of the National Action Plan Against Racism, the State party should adopt an effective policy and action plan, developed in consultation with Traveller and Roma communities, to redress situations of inequality.

Read the document in full here

Previously: It Won’t Be Pretty

Meanwhile, In Geneva

(Laura Hutton/Photocall ireland)

54 thoughts on “Referenda, Anyone?

  1. Hosanna in the Hiace

    Why do the abortion [on demand] fans promote this as something more than it is?

    The YD crowd aren’t the only dishonest lobby group around

      1. All the good ones fly south for winter

        Standing on public transport with those hate filled eyes. I didn’t even have a seat to give her. “Sorry I knocked you up” I said before I crawled upstairs to make a new life for myself – Nelson Mandela 1909 – 2008.

  2. read twice

    “…prosecute and punish the perpetrators, including medical personnel…”

    I can hear the wagons circling already…

  3. Sinabhfuil

    Will deciding that Travellers are a separate ethnic group – a Not-Us group – be likely to distance them even more from the core of Irish society?

    1. Hosanna in the Hiace

      it just highlights that this UN talking shop is not grounded in fact.

      It’s basically a Guardian discussion forum MeetUp

    2. Nigel

      Will it? It’s what they effectively are, and neither they nor the ‘core of Irish society’ seem keen to have it any other way.

    3. Aisling Twomey

      The short answer is no.

      The long answer is that Travellers have lived separately from the settled majority for hundreds of years. They have a different language, different culture preferences, lifestyle choices and traditions. They even have different historical context to us. They are solidly different to the majority settled population and recognising them as such places some value on their difference. It won’t grant any more rights or give them anything additional in the way of entitlements, but realistically, it’s a dignity thing.

      The idea is to recognise them for what they are- ie, not us.

      1. Randy Ewing

        ‘They have a different language’ youre actually wrong there, what they have is a Patois, its more propperly described as a dialect or a complex slang, Cant doesnt meet the requirements to be described as a language.

        1. Huppenstop

          There are no requirements as to what constitutes a language, which is part of the big issue faced when trying to classify languages. Cant/Shelta is interesting nonetheless and people do speak them, which gives Irish Travellers a separate linguistic identity not shared by the rest of the population.

          1. Huppenstop

            And before people jump by my throat, what I mean by “there are no requirements” is that there isn’t a checklist. Is Dutch a language or a dialect of Low German? Are Irish and Scottish Gaelic separate languages or dialects of the same? It’s all a continuum baby!

  4. Mister Mister

    “and amend the Housing Act of 2002 to meet the specific accommodation requirements of Traveller families. ”

    Fupp right off. If they have special requirements for specific accommodation let them contribute towards it.

    I have to pay for any specific requirements in my own home, that I pay for.

    1. Clampers Outside!

      I need a site where I can live for periods of time set by me in comfort with my big family, and I want one in Cork, Galway, Donegal, Dublin City Centre and one in the Midlands too.

      Yes, I am being facetious, there’ll have to be limits on what the UN means.

  5. fluffybiscuits

    Tarvellers are shown to be more disadvantaged than a lot of other people in other socio economic status classes. Housing rights for the those in desperately in need could be easily taken care of if the government would simple burn the bondholders and introduce a financial incentive tax. The special treatment for travellers is positive discrimination, its inherently righting the wrongs that was meted out to them since the inception of the Irish state.

  6. Bluebeard

    I wish the UN would just Fup Off. Most of the sanctimonious Ireland haters on BS ignore the failure of UN to act in Israel and a load of other places, but the BS squad don’t care cos they take on the church. Pulllease….

    1. bisted

      ….fairplay to all these advocacy groups who have learned the lesson about faffing about with the priest-ridden, party-hack populated quangos that are merely fronts for jobs for the boys here in Ireland. The UN is far from perfect and despite being totally ignored by the like of pariahs such as Israel, they still have much more potential to expose the hypocricy endemic in this country.

      1. WhoAreYa


        When the Lisbon treaty re-vote came around and I looked at the array of simpletons, pro-lifers and opportunists lining up to oppose it, a reasonable person would have to conclude that being governed ‘from Europe’ would be much preferable to letting the native gobshite run amok in the corridors of power.

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