Archive for October, 2009

Irish Language in the Courts, South and North

October 29, 2009 2 comments

The Irish Times reports that Irish was not even among the top ten most used languages in the courts last year. The cost of providing interpretation services for Irish  was less than €2,000 in total during 2006 and fell further to €1,012 in 2007,  according to official figures provided by the Courts Service.  By contrast, over 10,000  requests were made to the Courts Service last year for interpreters for 71  different languages. Polish topped the list. The other main languages were  Romanian, Lithuanian, Russian, Mandarin Chinese, Latvian, Portuguese, French, Czech and Arabic.

Section 8  of the Official Languages Act 2003 provides that a person has the right to be heard and to use the Irish language in the courts.  Irish is recognised as the first official language in Article 8 of the Constitution, but allows the legislature to make provision for the exclusive use of Irish or English in a particular context. The leading case is Ó Beoláin v. Fahy [2001] 2 I.R. 279. You can read about Ó Beoláin in Irish and in English in this article by UCC’s Seán Ó Conaill in the 2008 Irish Student Law Review. In that case, Hardiman J. held in the Supreme Court that:

 it is not possible (at least in the absence of law of the type envisaged in Article 8.3) to exclude Irish, which is the national language and at the same time the first official language of the State, from any part of the public discourse of the nation or from any official business of the State or from the official business of any of its members. Nor is it possible in these contexts to treat it in a manner which is less favourable than the way in which the second official language is treated. Neither is it possible to prevent those who are capable and desirous of using Irish in making their case or in communicating from so doing or to disadvantage them when so doing in any national or official context.
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Copenhagen Conference

October 28, 2009 2 comments

The upcoming Climate Conference in Copenhagencop15_logo_img is fast becoming a central point for debate and controversy. The Conference is supposed to reexamine the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and to consider what steps need to be taken to reduce the rate and pace of climate change and to suggest solutions to the problems that will and have already arisen from the temperature changes that are now inevitable.  The Kyoto Protocol, which contains the cap-and-trade system (a system which allows countries who underused their carbon allocation to sell the excess to another state which has surpassed its limit)  and other legally binding limits on carbon emission and reduction has had limited success in stemming the rate of climate change. The use of ‘soft law’ solutions to international environmental issues has failed in its attempts to gently push states into compliance and it is now admitted even by the United States and China, two countries’ whose carbon emissions are of such a magnitude that without their co-operation it matters little what other states attempt to do, that action must be taken. Mairead blogged about the human rights link on HRinI here.

In Ireland progress towards legally binding limits have been slow with little impetus put into pulling back from the levels of current emissions. The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Climate Change and Energy Security announced today, ‘Unless there is a clear regulatory framework supportive of Ireland meeting its EU and international commitments, Government, investors, emitters and consumers will not have a context within which to take behaviour changing initiatives.’ It also set out Heads of a Climate Change Bill which is based upon what has already been introduced in other states. The proposed bill would include: the setting of national greenhouse gas emission reduction targets, setting of energy and electricity efficiency targets by 2020 and the setting up of  an independent Climate Change Commission. While this sounds marvelous one can’t help but think that this is a preemptive attempt to get around any international commitments that the EU signs up for at Copenhagen.

Lecturer in Human Rights/International Law

October 28, 2009 Leave a comment

The School of Law and the Transitional Justice Institute, University of Ulster (Magee) are seeking a lecturer in human rights/international law for a fixed term post until July 2012.

Further information on this post is available here. Closing date for applications is Friday, October 30 2009.

Asylum Seeking Women and Direct Provision

October 28, 2009 1 comment

R and I AgencySome worrying news from Galway’s and Mayo’s rape crisis centres.  Asylum seeking women are being propositioned for sex outside reception centres. Aoibheann McCann of Galway’s Rape Crisis Centre (GRCC) states that many of these women are vulnerable, after suffering rape in their countries of origin.  20% of those who report rape or sexual abuse to GRCC are asylum seekers.

Sen HealySenator Fidelma Healy Eames has called for random Gardaí (Irish police force) patrols outside direct provision centres to prevent men from preying on vulnerable child and adult asylum seekers. Senator Eames has also called for a more fundamental review of the direct provision system, noting that it costs  €27,000 to provide for an asylum seeker under this system, as compared to an average cost of  €18,000 per asylum seeker who is within traditional welfare state structures. (I have previously blogged on the direct provision system and asylum seekers, these posts can be found here and here).

U.S. State Department Religious Freedom Report 2009: Ireland

October 27, 2009 4 comments

The U.S. Department of State released its annual Report on International Religious Freedom on Monday. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, introducing the Report, touched again on the theme of defamation of religion, noting that:

But an individual’s ability to practice his or her religion has no bearing on others’ freedom of speech. The protection of speech about religion is particularly important since persons of different faiths will inevitably hold divergent views on religious questions. These differences should be met with tolerance, not with the suppression of discourse.

Now, the section of the report which deals with Ireland probably won’t attract the attention of the international press but it certainly makes for hair-raising reading.  Perhaps the report is deliberately light on detail. Perhaps it deliberately selects a narrow conception of religious freedom. Whatever its design, the Report gives a very misleading picture of the state of religious freedom in Ireland.

Read more…

Karadzic genocide trial resumes in his absence

October 27, 2009 Leave a comment

The familiar adage that justice delayed is justice denied will get a few more outings after the trial of Radovan Karadzic (case IT-95-5/18 ) predictably hit the buffers once more. Mr Karadzic is standing trial as the highest political and military authority in the ethnic splinter state of Republika Srpska in Bosnia Herzegovina during some of the Bosnian War. Prosecutors accuse him of either ordering, encouraging or failing to prevent crimes, including the July 1995 massacre at Srebrenica, when Bosnian Serb forces murdered about 8,000 unarmed Bosnian Muslim males, and the three-year shelling of Sarajevo, which killed more than 10,000. The trial started yesterday and was due to start with the opening prosecution statement, spread out over two days. Karadzic, was also to be given two days to make an opening statement. Yesterday, presiding Judge O-Gon Kwon adjourned proceedings after less than half an hour after Mr Karadzic’s refused to appear. Karadzic Read more…

R(E) v Governing Body of JFS

October 27, 2009 2 comments

The new UK Supreme Court will begin to hear the appeal in R(E) v. Governing Body of JFS UKSC 2009/0105 today. The case will take three days. It consists in an appeal from the decision of the Court of Appeal in R(E) v. Governing Body of JFS [2009] EWCA Civ 626.  The case began with the High Court decision of Mr. Justice Munby (now Lord Justice Munby) in R(E) v. Governing Body of JFS [2008] EWHC 1535, handed down in July of last year. JFS is a well known Jewish school in, Brent, London and is consistently recognised as one of the best performing schools in the country. The issue before the Supreme Court today is:

Whether a Jewish faith school unlawfully discriminates directly or indirectly under the Race Relations Act 1976 in giving priority in admission to the school to those children who are recognised as Jewish under Orthodox Jewish religious law by the Office of the Chief Rabbi.

The High Court found that there was no unlawful discrimination. The Court of Appeal, by contrast, found that there was. As always, I am less interested in the law than in the politics and it’s a busy day today, but there are a few observations I would like to make.

Read more…

Law Reform Commission: Conference on Reform of the Law on Personal Debt

October 27, 2009 Leave a comment

LRCThe Law Reform Commission will hold its annual conference on Wednesday 18 November 2009 in the beautiful Main Conference Hall in Dublin Castle. The conference fee is €40 and the theme is the reform of the law on personal debt, on which the Commission published a Consultation Paper recently.

Among others, the conference will be addressed by Justice Catherine McGuinness, the President of the Commission, and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform Dermot Ahern. The full programme and conference brochure is available here, where you will also find a registration form.

Wedding Industry Fears Persecution by Equality Legislation?

October 27, 2009 4 comments

LCManufactured controversy has long been the coin of the realm at the Sunday Independent, a paper that last broke a proper news story around the time the Ballinspittle statues got their groove on. In a week where Dónal Og Cusack came out and Germany appointed a gay Foreign Minister, a reaction was probably inevitable. Dredging the unfathomable depths of the barrel of newsworthiness, it reported on Sunday from a meeting of the Fianna Fail parliamentary party which was attended by (wait for it) up to 20 TDs last week. Among the contributors was the inevitable and seemingly ubiquitous director of the Iona Institute, David Quinn. The Iona Institute is a non-governmental organisation dedicated to the strengthening of civil society through making the case for marriage and religious practice. Read more…

Defamation of Religion and Ireland’s Hypocrisy(?)

October 26, 2009 2 comments

The long-standing debate about the possibility of finding a place for a concept of ‘defamation of religion’ in international human rights law continues. On October 2, the UN Human Rights Council passed (without a vote) a Resolution on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, condemning ‘stereotyping of religion’. The document is available here and you can see webcasts of the discussion leading up to the Resolution here. Recent news on Ireland’s role in this controversy appears after the jump, but a little background may be necessary first. The ostensible  aim of these Resolutions has been to meet the impact of Islamophobia, but there are also concerns that the project which inspires them would go further, inhibiting freedom of speech. The Council in its October Resolution:

Reaffirms … the right of everyone to hold opinions without interference, as well as the right to freedom of expression, including … the intrinsically linked rights to freedom of thought, conscience and religion….

Also expresses its concern that incidents of racial and religious intolerance, discrimination and related violence, as well as of negative racial and religious stereotyping continue to rise around the world, and condemns, in this context, any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence, and urges States to take effective measures, consistent with their obligations under international human rights law, to address and combat such incidents

The Resolution is notable for the absence of a focus on the concept of ‘defamation of religion,’ which had been the centrepiece of a series of increasingly controversial Resolutions adopted at various U.N. bodies since 1999.  It appears to be replaced with the language of ‘stereotyping’, which moves condemnation away from what is said about a religion to the consequences of those statements for the faithful. Nevertheless, the focus on ‘religion’ as opposed to religious individuals has been roundly criticised; in particular by the Becket Fund Jean-Baptiste Mattei of France, speaking for the EU, was careful to insist that the language of stereotyping could only be understood to refer to individuals. The European Union member states have been especially critical of the Resolutions for some time. You can read more about the earlier Resolutions in this article by Elizabeth Kendal in the International Journal of Religious Freedom.

The United States co-sponsored the October 2009 Resolution with Egypt. The United States now holds a seat on the UNHRC, after a significant period of disengagement from the body and, as was noted on IntLawGrrls, the compromise Resolution is vulnerable to the criticism that it has as much to do with the Obama Administration’s attempts to reach out to the ‘Muslim World’ as with any rigorous endeavour to safeguard human rights. As an aside, Eugene Volokh makes the argument that the Resolution may conflict with the U.S. constitutional framework which balances freedom of religion with freedom of speech.

Read more…