On Friday the 16th April the Minister for Foreign Affairs Mr. Micheál Martin T.D. made a speech to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions on the Middle East Peace Process. This follows his trip to Gaza in February which was discussed here and which was characterised as a humanitarian trip to highlight the crisis created by the blockade of Gaza which he also referred to.
In his speech to the ICTU the Minister acknowledged the work undertaken by the Trade Union movement and other civil society groups in Ireland in highlighting the situation within the Middle East. He also drew attention to the importance of having an informed debate on this topic.
Interestingly the Minister also stressed the importance of a resolution based upon a two-state solution and ‘the central importance of achieving progress towards a comprehensive settlement, based on a two-State solution.’ In doing so he lay emphasis upon the apparent acceptance of such a solution by Prime Minister Netanyahu in June 2009 where he stated that:
In my vision of peace, there are two free peoples living side by side in this small land, with good neighborly relations and mutual respect, each with its flag, anthem and government, with neither one threatening its neighbors security and existence.
The Minister further emphasised the Irish Government’s support for the US efforts led by Senator George Mitchell, who was heavily involved in the Northern Ireland peace process as well, in reaching a settlement. The strongest language in the speech was left to the issue current blockade of Gaza, where the Minister stated that,
Most of all, we need to end the completely unjust, unacceptable and counter-productive blockade of Gaza.
The Minister had previously condemned the building of 1,600 homes in East Jerusalem, joining other EU countries in doing so. In that statement the Minister called into question Israel’s commitment in achieving any progress within the talks.
The Minister also referenced the relationship between the EU and the countries of the Middle East, particularly Israel, and asserted that it was the Government’s position that such relations should be based upon the EU-Israel Association Agreement. This aim of this Agreement is to strengthen EU-Israeli ties and to eventually integrate Israel into EU policies. The EU’s language with regard to the Middle East conflict tends to be quite tame, a recent Declaration by HR Catherine Ashton stated that, ‘[t]he EU calls upon all parties to avoid any provocation and move towards lasting peace.’
Interestingly the Minister did not make any mention of the use of Irish passports in the assassination of Hamas commander Mahmoud al-Mabhhouh which we blogged about here. Indeed the Department of Foreign Affairs appears to have gone silent on the matter. This may be contrasted with the UK which expelled a Israeli diplomat in late March in response to state sponsored identity theft. This perhaps better reflects the Government’s largely guarded tone when discussing issues related to the Middle East.
*Spoiler Alert: This post contains some spoilers to the South Park episodes “200″ and “201″. In Ireland and the United Kingdom South Park airs on Comedy Central. Comedy Central has not aired the episode “201″ in Ireland or the United Kingdom. The episode “201″ has been uploaded (illegally) onto a variety of sites.
HRiI has discussed extensively the issue of criminal blasphemy in Ireland, over the last few months, see, here, here, here, here, here and here. Contributors to these posts noted Ireland’s hypocrisy on the issue, and the threats which this legislation posed to freedom of expression. The popular Comedy Central show South Park celebrated its 200th episode recently. In typical South Park fashion it dealt with a number of pressing (and not so pressing) issues. A central focus of both the 200th and 201st episodes (as it was in the episodes Cartoon Wars: Part I and Cartoon Wars: Part II) revolved around the religious prophet Muhammad and the controversy regarding depicting him in human form. A number of groups who did not want to be ridiculed (celebrities and persons with red hair), sought Muhammad’s ‘goo’ which they believed would make them impervious from public ridicule or criticism. In the South Park Universe, Muhammad is part of the Super Best Friends, a group of religious figures (plus one) who help those in need. The group consists of Jesus Christ, Buddha, Muhammad, Krishna, Joseph Smith, Lao Tzu, Moses and a character called Sea Man. The Super Best Friends were introduced to the South Park Universe in 2001, and as the picture to the side shows, there was no controversy for depicting an image of Muhammad (to the right of Jesus). However, with the publication of the Danish Cartoons and the resulting violence (see here, here, here, and to view the controversial cartoons see here), Comedy Central refused to air the image of Muhammad. It had initially been thought that the 200th episode depicted Muhammad dressed up in an oversize bear outfit, harking park to the Sudanese controversy. However, in the 201st episode it was revealed that Muhammad was not in the bear costume. For the whole of the 201st episode, images of Muhammad were censored and Muhammad’s name was bleeped from the dialogue. In addition, large portions of the show were bleeped when a number of the characters tried to suggest what could be learned from the problems the characters faced in the episode. The creators of South Park, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, had their addresses published on extremist website forums and suggested they would face a similar fate to Theo van Gogh (see here, here, here, here and here).
Is such gratuitous mocking of religion permitted under human rights law? Do human rights protections extend to those who wish not to have deeply held beliefs ridiculed in a crass (or any other) manner? Read more…
HRinI’s Liz Campbell has published an article entitled ‘Responding to Gun Crime in Ireland’ in the current issue of the British Journal of Criminology. The article is available to download here (subscription required). The abstract reads:
From stereotypical views of Ireland as a peaceful and ‘low crime’ society, the media and policy makers now report the worsening of gun crime, in particular crimes of homicide committed by firearm. Despite this sometimes hyperbolic popular commentary, serious and fatal gun crime has indeed increased. In reacting through extraordinary legal measures, the Irish state adopts an unduly narrow perspective, predicated on a rational actor model; what this paper seeks to do is put forward two more profitable and persuasive means of analysis, by focusing on social deprivation and the expression of masculinity.
You can find out more about Liz on our Regular Contributors Page.
We are expecting the launch of the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrats’ manifestos for the General Election on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of next week respectively. Human Rights in Ireland will offer some early analysis of each one on the days of their launch to assess just what this election may mean for human rights in Britain and in Ireland.
UPDATE (08.49am): Adam Wagner over at the recently launched UK Human Rights Blog has written this morning that this bill of rights (for the UK, not Northern Ireland) is to be a key election issue. He also draws attention to a piece in the Guardian today critiquing the Conservative Party’s plans for human rights. Unless there’s a major policy announcement between now and then, I will hold my tongue on this until the manifesto announcement at the start of next week.
This week is LGBT Awareness Week, during which–among other things–BelongTo, a fantastic organisation for LGBT youth, are running their StandUp campaign. According to their website, the campaign “is aimed at creating positive understanding of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young people and their issues”.
Awareness of the needs of younger LGBT people in our schools, universities, sports clubs and society in general is vital to ensuring full flourishing. Being young and being gay, bisexual, trans or intersex is not a whole lot of fun for many people, particularly before they go to university and discover lots of other people “like” them. If you work somewhere with younger people, why not print out one of the posters or logos and put it in your office space or on your door. Show the young people in your environment that you support them and their friends and colleagues who are not LGBT that they should support them too. Even if there are not many younger people in your work place, put the poster up. The likelihood is that one of your colleagues or friends has an LGBT child, relative or friend. Supporting their children supports them. If you are a parent, this might be an opportune time to ask the principle or teachers in your child’s school about their policies on homophobic bullying and diversity within the school and express your support for ensuring a safe educational space for all young people.
Stand Up and support your LGBT friends and colleagues.
1 Crown Office Row has launched a new blog, the UK Human Rights Blog. It will be authored by a junior, a silk and an academic member of chambers. They describe the new venture as follows:
As Cian noted earlier today, the UK election has begin in earnest. This election, of course, has potentially very significant ramifications for the future of the Human Rights Act 1998 and the Bill of Rights process in Northern Ireland. In particular, the Conservative Party-currently enjoying what seems like a healthy lead in the polls-has proposed the repeal of the Human Rights Act 1998 upon election and its possible replacement with a ‘British’ Bill of Rights. In this post I want to just briefly expand on the concerns about this proposal noted by Cian in that earlier post. Read more…
And they’re off! The least surprising news story of the day so far has been that Gordon Brown has made the trip to Buckingham Palace to request that the Queen dissolve Parliament, effective next Tuesday (this is to allow the Digital Economy Bill to be rushed through Parliament in the next six days). A General Election will take place on Thursday 6 May.
There are two key human rights issues that may be affected by the outcome of this election – one of which will be of great concern to human rights advocates in Ireland. These are:
I’ve blogged previously about the policing of the Shell to Sea Campaign but a number of developments of late are worth noting. Last week 9 activitists were in court on charges of public order but had the charges struck out as the court held that they had been unlawfully held for 27 hours in Garda custody before being brought before a judge.
Indymedia explain that one of the nine cases was used as a test case, that of Eoin Lawless. Mr Lawless was arrested at 2.20pm on 28th June last year, on a public road. He was detained at the Shell site for two hours, before being brought to a police station. He was charged at 9.15pm. He was not brought before a court until 5.30pm the next day. The Supt at court offered the explanation that there insufficient officers at hand to deal with prisoners, but this of course is not a satisfactory reason to deny a person their right to liberty. Read more…