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IHRC Report on John Paul Centre, Galway

March 30, 2010 1 comment

The Irish Human Rights Commission today released a lengthy report on an enquiry into conditions, services and care provided in the John Paul Centre in Galway. This is a residential centre for adults with severe to profound learning disabilities and the enquiry was conducted following a representation to the IHRC from concerned parents of residents. The report is very detailed and we hope in the following days to bring you some specialist commentary on it here at HRinI. Readers might also be interested in two previous posts on HRinI on standards of care in residential centres for people with disability: this post from Mary Keogh & Charles O’Mahony and this separate post from Charles.

In the course of the enquiry the IHRC found that there had been breaches of the residents’ human rights in respect of the failure to provide adequate services and care to the residents of the centre. In many ways, these failures are bound up with the lack of accountability mechanisms and the fact that such centres are unregulated and uninspected in spite of being state-funded. However, it seems clear from the report’s recommendations of which there are many) that the problems are envisaged by the IHRC as being more multi-disciplinary and multi-layered than ‘simple’ lack of inspection/regulation. From recommending the immediate ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to the formation of tailored service agreements taking the needs of residents into account, the recommendations are wide-ranging. They are also important inasmuch as they highlight the various different stakeholders—the Departments of Health, Justice and Education, the HSE, the residents, the Brothers of Charity (who run the centre), the parents—whose input is required to provide a service that is truly fit for purpose and respectful of the rights and liberties of the residents.

The report is certainly welcome and there can be little doubt that its findings are replicated in similar centres throughout the country. The sooner the state moves on ensuring effective, properly resourced, respectful, appropriate, adequate and accountable levels of health and support service provision to people with disabilities in Ireland the better.

Irish Blog Awards 2010

March 29, 2010 Leave a comment

The Irish Blog Awards took place last Saturday in Galway. HRinI was a finalist for the best news/current affairs blog sponsored by Dediserve. The prize in that category rightly went to Maman Poulet, run by the irrepressible Suzy Byrne. We were ably represented by Liam Thornton on the night.

The IBAs were started by Damien Mulley fadó fadó (in internet time at least) and have grown from a relatively small gathering to a large and very fun annual event with numerous side events and the inevitable morning-after brunches. It is, as an event, a real example of how online activity can translate into meaningful off-line interactions and events. It is also an enormous undertaking organisationally for which Damien and the whole team deserve a great deal of gratitude. I was pleased this year to be a judge in the IBAs and I can attest to the quality of the many blogs I judged along the way, finding myself almost never in a position of awarding a poor mark.

Blogging is an important activity—it is a way for people to express their own views, a way to share emotions, a way to shed light on events or perspectives that perhaps do not make waves in the main stream media, a way to present news and current affairs with a different audience or perspective in mind. Academic group blogging is really beginning to take off in Ireland, with the charge perhaps being led by Irish Economy and now very ably joined by Political Reform. As a group academic blog, HRinI was conceived of as a way to do four things: (1) to aggregate information about Irish scholarship and events in human rights; (2) to provide quick-reaction commentary on what is happening in Ireland from a human rights perspective; (3) to create a space where the academy, practitioners, NGOs and all other interested parties can interact; and (4) to bring scholarship and legal commentary out of the university and democratise it to the extent that a dozen or so (mainly early career) academics can.

We certainly hope to continue to fulfil these functions over the next year. As always, we are delighted to hear suggestions and feedback from readers either in the comments here, on our facebook page, on twitter, or by contacting us (all our details are here).

Fine Gael’s New Politics and the Abolition of the Seanad

March 24, 2010 Leave a comment

Fine Gael’s New Politics proposals include a proposal to abolish Seanad Éireann and move towards a unicameral system of parliament. In this post I want to express some concerns, based firmly in a human rights perspective, about this proposal. First of all we should note that the Seanad, or upper house, is by no means a perfect institution. In fact, there are many things that are objectionable about it including the means by which it is populated. However, for the reasons that I outline below, I am not convinced that abolition of the Seanad is the way forward or that Fine Gael have made out a strong enough case for this kind of momentous constitutional change. I have identified five primary claims in New Politics for the abolition of the Seanad and I consider these claims, and their merits, after the jump.

Read more…

Update on the Civil Partnership Bill 2009

March 23, 2010 2 comments

The progress of the Civil Partnership Bill 2009 through the Oireachtas continues and today’s Irish Times contains two pieces on the cohabitation provisions of the Bill. As we have documented here and here the cohabitation provisions (i.e. for cohabiting couples who are neither married nor in civil partnerships) attempt to establish a kind of safety net. However, they apply only to ‘qualifying cohabitants’ and there is a serious fear—articulated in the Irish Times by Professor John Mee of UCC—that non-qualifying cohabitants will assume themselves protected when in fact no such protection exists.

Read more…

Fine Gael’s New Politics

March 22, 2010 3 comments

The much-anticipated New Politics proposals of Fine Gael, Ireland’s largest opposition party, have just been released and can be downloaded here. The proposals are extremely wide reaching and include numerous constitutional and extra-constitutional proposals, many of which we will discuss here on HRinI over the next few days once we’ve had an opportunity to digest the report. The overview follows after the jump. Read more…

Informing our Constitutional Imagination

March 21, 2010 7 comments

Given Fine Gael’s proposal for a ‘constitution day’ within a year of taking office should they succeed in the next general election and the various reforms proposed (which we have considered here, here and here) I have been thinking a lot lately about the extent to which, as a people, we feel a real connection to our constitutional tradition. The Preamble to Bunreacht na hÉireann, after quite some veneration of “Our Divine Lord Jesus Christ” and so on, provides that “we, the people of Éire….adopt, enact and give to ourselves this Constitution”. Of course, this phrase of the Preamble is connected to the idea that the Constitution was enacted following a Plebiscite of ‘the people’. Furthermore, as is well known, the Irish Constitution can be amended only by referendum of the people (although this was not always the case). All of this suggests that, in some way at least, the Irish people have some kind of deep connection to the Constitution; that we have a relatively developed sense of “constitutional imagination”. I harbour a real concern, however, that our constitutional imagination is in many ways impaired by lack of constitutional education and the creation of political footballs out of constitutional controversies and uncertainties. Read more…

HRinI: Finalist in the Irish Blog Awards 2010

March 20, 2010 2 comments

The wonderful people at the Irish Blog Awards have now announced the finalists for the awards and we are delighted to see that HRinI has made it to the final five in the ‘Best News/Current Affairs Blog’. Thanks so much to the organisers, judges and our readers. Thanks also, of course, to dediserve who is sponsoring this category and congratulations to all of the finalist blogs.

The other blogs in the news/current affairs category are