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Archive for the ‘Human Rights and the Economy’ Category

Guest Post: Siobhan Cummiskey on Travellers as an Ethnic Minority

April 13, 2010 2 comments

We are delighted to welcome this guest post from Siobhan Cummiskey, managing solicitor of the Irish Traveller Movement Independent Law Centre. You can find out more about Siobhan on the Guest  Contributors page.

Travellers have once again been both literally and figuratively sidelined by the Irish government upon being consigned to the Appendix of Ireland’s State Report to CERD (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination) in their combined 3rd and 4th report to the CERD Committee submitted in December 2009. The consignment of Travellers to a mere Appendix of a state report on racism is a most overt method of affirming the policy-endorsed position that Travellers are social dropouts, failed settled people and an economically deprived social group, as opposed to an ethnic minority.

The Irish government reiterated its tired mantra on the recognition of Travellers as an ethnic minority in their 2009 state report:

“The exact basis for this claim is unclear. The Irish Government’s view is that Travellers do not constitute a distinct group from the population as a whole in terms of race, colour, descent or ethnic origin.”1

Our neighbour, the jurisdiction of England and Wales, has recognized Irish Travellers as an ethnic minority through the courts2 and Northern Ireland expressly includes Irish Travellers in their equality legislation under the definition of an ethnic minority3. Our own Equality Acts 2000-2004 fail to include Travellers as an ethnic minority and instead list them as a separate group to whom protection will be provided in that particular legal instrument. The Irish government maintains in their 2009 report to CERD that equality legislation that fails to define Travellers as an ethnic minority but instead singles them out as a separate group worthy of protection, “does not provide a lesser level of protection to Travellers compared to that afforded to members of ethnic minorities. On the contrary, the specific identification of Travellers in equality legislation guarantees that they are explicitly protected.”

Read more…

Kenny on Carson & Ors. v The United Kingdom

March 29, 2010 1 comment

We are delighted to welcome this guest contribution from Jo Kenny, Legal Officer at the Public Interest Law Alliance (PILA), a project of the Free Legal Advice Centres (FLAC). You can learn more about Jo on our guest contributors page.

On 16th March 2010 the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights delivered its judgment in Carson & Ors. –v- the United Kingdom (Application No.42184/05). This is the end of Mrs Carson’s long road in challenging UK state pension policy.

Mrs Carson emigrated to South Africa and subsequently retired there. She had previously worked in the UK and made full contributions to the UK state pension. Indeed she continued to make such contributions on leaving. However when her state pension came into payment, it was not index-linked – it was frozen and would not be uprated to reflect the effect of inflation. The UK does not index-link state pensions paid in South Africa. The question for the Grand Chamber was whether this policy unlawfully discriminated against Mrs Carson on the basis of her place of residence, in breach of Article 14 in conjunction with Article 1 Protocol 1. Read more…

Bye Bye Justice, Equality & Law Reform; Hello Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs?

March 23, 2010 14 comments

The  Irish cabinet reshuffle (see here, here, here and here) has resulted in the  Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform , being divested of issues relating to equality, disability, integration and human rights. These important areas will be subsumed into the new Department of Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs. The comments below are some initial reactions to this news.

Justice, Equality and Human Rights-Why?

I do not believe in making structural changes for their own sake. Too often, changes in structures can be pursued to disguise a lack of clear priorities or the determination to implement them. This Government has a clear agenda which I am determined will be driven forward with energy and commitment. There is no time to be wasted on extensive restructuring at the expense of action to implement our policies.

An Taoiseach Brian Cowen T.D.  23 March 2010

From 1992 until 1997, there was Minister for Equality and Law Reform, however post the 1997 general election, this was subsumed into the Department of Justice (to become the Dept. of Justice, Equality and Law Reform (DJELR).This was a time of enormous economic growth within the Republic of Ireland and a number of months before the signing of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement. The thrust of today’s speech by An Taoiseach’s recognised the need for a re-invigorated economy based on job creation and innovation. For reasons highlighted by the statement of An Taoiseach above, structural changes were made to a number of departments.

Read more…

‘A Fairer Ireland: Equality and Rights At the Heart of Recovery’

January 29, 2010 Leave a comment

The Equality and Rights Alliance has produced a document which summarises the proceedings of their recent ‘Fairer Ireland’ conference.

Within the document are links to presenters’ slides and to youtube videos of their speeches. Part 1 of Colm O Cinneide’s speech, for instance – which makes some reference to the Equality Authority’s role in the Portmarnock decision – is here and part 1 of Karen Chouan’s (Equanomics) speech is here.

Sex Work and Drugs in Ireland: New Research

The National Advisory Committee on Drugs has published a fascinating report entitled Drug Use, Sex Work and the Risk Environment in Dublin, available here. In particular, the report makes a number of interesting findings about drug users’ reasons for working in the sex industry:

  • All the men and women interviewed were dependent heroin users prior to engaging in sex work; a significant minority were minors at the time.
  • There were a variety of entry routes into sex work; the dominant route being through peer or friendship networks. This often happened when the person had financial problems and their friend/acquaintance paved the way for them to become involved in sex work. For a significant minority of participants this introduction happened while homeless and/or staying in emergency accommodation.
  • For most of the participants the primary rationale for engaging in sex work was economic; to ‘make ends meet’ and/or ‘for the sake of me habit’. Sex work provided a source of income and hence financial independence. Moreover, it was often considered less risky than alternative sources of income, such as drug-dealing and shop-lifting.
  • The interface between participants’ drug use and their sex work was complex. The men and women interviewed needed a continual source of funds to maintain their (often multiple) drug dependency. For most, sex work proved very lucrative in this regard. However, the increased income obtained from sex work invariably contributed to an escalation in drug use.

Wednesday’s ‘Today With Pat Kenny’ featured an exchange based on the report between a representative of the Sex Workers Alliance of Ireland, which advocates ‘a move away from portraying sex workers as victims and towards a realisation that many people choose to work in the sex industry‘ and a spokesperson for the Christian NGO Ruhama. The podcast is available here.

Reform of the One Parent Family Allowance?

December 30, 2009 8 comments

The front page of this morning’s Irish Times carries this story reporting the Minister for Social Welfare Mary Hanafin’s (left) view that some reform of the one parent family allowance may be required. In the Minister’s view “The idea of continuing to pay somebody until their child is 22 if they’re in full-time education, it just mitigates against that lone parent herself having a stable relationship or marrying or even taking a full-time job, because of the attachment to ‘the book’”. The article reports that the Minister is considering discussing a situation where one parent family allowance would cease around the time that a child went to secondary school and that she seeks a ‘social policy’, rather than economic, discussion around this welfare allowance. It should be noted, first of all, that changes along these lines were proposed in the Government Discussion Paper: Proposals for Supporting Lone Parents (2006) and are therefore not new. In addition, the discussion is prompted by an awareness that lone parents are reportedly four times more likely to live in poverty and a desire to try to improve state-based supports for lone parent families.

Originally lone parents were supported through the poor law and such support was, in fact, reflective of a very punitive and moralistic approach to single parents (and single mothers in particular). Lone fathers were not originally entitled to any lone parent support from the state; a situation that was upheld by the Supreme Court in Lowth v Minister for Social Welfare [1998] 3 IR 321 on the basis of ‘social function’.

Part III of the Social Welfare Act 1990 introduced a means tested, non-gender-specific lone parent’s allowance payable to those with at least one qualifying child. Part V of the Social Welfare Act 1996 then introduced the one parent family payment to replace the lone parent’s allowance, deserted wife’s benefit and deserted wife’s allowance. This gender neutral, means tested payment is intended to support those who are bringing up a child without the support of a partner and without access to income from other sources. Qualifying children are children up to the age of 18 or, when in full-time education, up the age of 22 where the recipient is the main carer of the child. Rather controversially, qualification for the one parent family allowance is dependent on one complying with the “non-cohabitation” rule, i.e. a rule that prohibits the payment of OPF allowance to anyone who resides with another adult “as husband and wife” regardless of whether the other cohabiting adult in fact parents or supports the child to any extent. Read more…

van Turnhout on Budget 2010: The Rights of the Child

December 11, 2009 1 comment

HRiI has  the pleasure of introducing a further guest blog on the impact of Budget 2010 from Jillian van Turnhout, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance.

Budget 2010 was the most discussed, debated, analysed and awaited Budget in the country’s history.  Never before has a Budget generated so much anticipation, concern – even fear – across all sectors of society.  At home and abroad Budget 2010 was seen as the Government’s chance to show that it was capable of leading the country out of recession; and could demonstrate to international partners that Ireland can take steps to reverse its misfortunes and emerge strong.  The McCarthy Report on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure (‘An Bord Snip Nua’ report)[1] and the Commission on Taxation Report,[2] both published in summer 2009, advised Government on how to achieve an overall budgetary adjustment of €4 billion.  At Cabinet, it was agreed that this year the focus would be on cuts, not taxation.

In total, measures announced in Budget 2010 amounted to €4 billion in savings, made up of over €1 billion from the public sector pay bill, €760 million from social welfare, €980 million from day-to-day spending programmes, and €960 million from investment projects.  With these reductions, the Government aims to stabilise the national deficit in a fair way, safeguard those worst hit by the recession, and stimulate the crucial sectors of the economy to sustain and create jobs.

Read more…

Blog Carnival Conclusion: The Human Rights Implications of Budget 2010

December 10, 2009 2 comments

This Wordle is drawn from the text in all the contributors posts.

As with all blog carnivals, my first task to is to thank those who contributed today: Elaine, Aoife, Danielle, Fergal, Eilonoir, Deirdre, Mairead and Vicky.

Please find all the blog contributions below:

Human Rights and Equality Infrastructure

Criminal Justice System

Targeting the Lost Generation

Women Poverty & Violence

Children’s Rights

The Rights of People with Disabilities

Welfare Cuts and Human Rights

The Right to Work in Ireland

The only task left to me is to close this blog carnival. Today, we have discussed the rights affected in a very academic sense. What we have done is show you the reality of this budget for a segment of the population living in the Republic of Ireland.  This budget will have a minimal impact on some, a more appreciable impact on most, and a noticable  impact on the less well off.

Rather than draw conclusions from the posts above, I will allow you to draw your own conclusions. Did we neglect to discuss the dire economic situation which Ireland is facing? Did we properly discuss the fact that billions of Euro are being spent on bank and business subsidies? Did we properly question the whole economic system upon which Budget 2010 is based? Is the economic system which much of the world has in place conducive to human rights protection?  These are issues not only for the Republic of Ireland to face, but for the globe at large.

Thornton on Budget 2010: Human Rights and Equality Infrastructure

December 10, 2009 2 comments

With the massive cuts in Budget 2009 for the Irish Human Rights Commission and the Equality Authority, both bodies have maintained their much reduced budgets for 2010. The Office of the Children’s Ombudsman has also maintained its 2009 Budget.

Danielle and Fergal have discussed the impact of the budget on children’s rights here, while Vicky has commented upon the increases and cutbacks in the criminal legal aid scheme and criminal justice here. Eilonoir has noted the increases and cutbacks for those with disabilities here.

I will concentrate on the other areas within the broad human rights and equality infrastructure in this post. Read more…

Conway on Budget 2010: The Irish Criminal Justice System

December 10, 2009 2 comments

This post is contributed by our regular contributor Dr. Vicky Conway. You can read about Vicky on our Contributors page.

The most apparent implication of Budget 2010 for the criminal justice system has been the threat of strike action by members of the Garda Representative Association (covering circa 12,000 members of the force), on the basis of the public sector pay cuts. The government, on the advice of the AG has warned of the criminal implications of such action, a statement reinforced by the Garda Commissioner. Prof Dermot Walsh has argued however, that there is in fact no legal bar on strike action, only on joining a trade union. The GRA does not appear, at the time of writing, to have made a statement on the Budget, but given AGSI’s response, that it is ‘an attack on its members’, we may well see a ballot of GRA members on strike action in the coming weeks. Let’s not forget other workers, such as prison officers, who may also choose to strike. In the past prison strikes have required Gardaí to serve in prisons, which clearly is problematic if they too are striking.

Read more…

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