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O’Mahony on the Proposed Constitutional Amendment on Children – Education Aspects

February 26, 2010 3 comments

You can learn more about Conor O’Mahony on our guest contributors page.

As part of the proposed constitutional amendment on children, the proposed new Article 42.2 proposes to enumerate, for the first time, a number of the rights of children, including “the right of the child to an education”. The proposal to include an explicit right of the child to education is welcome – indeed, it was recommended by the Constitution Review Group in 1996 – but in all probability, it changes little. The existence of such a right, correlative to the duty of the State under the existing Article 42.4 to provide for free primary education, was clearly reognised in Crowley v Ireland [1980] I.R. 102 and has never been questioned since. The new provision could potentially be interpreted as being broader, given that it refers to “an education” rather than merely to “primary education”. However, it is unlikely that the courts – and particularly the current Supreme Court – would interpret this as including a positive right to education at a level higher than primary, given that the corresponding duty of the State under the re-numbered Article 42.8 would still refer only to primary education. While the Oireachtas Committee Report states that the rights that are recognised in the proposed Article 42.2 are “designed to make a tangible difference to children’s rights”, there is no suggestion that there was any intention to take a step as significant as extending the right to free State education beyond primary level, and in the absence of such a clear intention, no court is likely to so interpret the provision. Read more…

Carr on the Constitutional Amendment and Children in Care

February 26, 2010 7 comments

You can learn more about Nicola Carr on our guest contributors page.

The case for an amendment to the Irish Constitution to specifically enumerate the rights of children has been well set out by a range of commentators over a period of time. The issues pertaining to children in care or those on the ‘edges of care’ (that is those children who may be eligible for placement in care on the grounds of protection or welfare), have been a touchstone in these debates.

It has been argued that the balance between the ‘inalienable and imprescritible rights’ of the family, as set out in Article 41.1, and the power of the State to intervene in ‘exceptional circumstances’ where the parents in the said family have been deemed to have ‘failed’ in their duty as set out in Article 42.5, has been too strongly skewed towards the rights of the (marital) family. It has also been criticised for setting the threshold for State intervention too high. In the Report of the Kilkenny Incest Inquiry (1993) Justice Catherine McGuinness identified that the status of the martial family within the Irish Constitution was one of the barriers to State intervention in cases such as that described in the Inquiry Report – where a range of services had failed to successfully intervene in a case of longstanding abuse. Justice McGuinness therefore recommended that consideration be given to strengthening the rights of children by way of a Constitutional amendment. Read more…

de Londras on Reflection, Rapidity and a Children’s Rights Referendum

February 26, 2010 1 comment

You can learn more about Fiona de Londras on our regular contributors page

The proposed children’s rights amendment to the Constitution offers much material for discussion in terms of scope, substance and process and these questions are considered in the other contributions to this blog carnival. My intention in this contribution is to take a step back and consider the importance of having a reflective, reasoned and open period of debate on the wording of the proposals before progressing to a formal constitutional referendum. The risk, after a long period of committee-based consideration and consultation such as that which has taken place around these proposals (even if that consultation was somewhat limited in various ways), is that the wording as proposed would be presumptively considered to be the final wording for the referendum. In such circumstances the debate would likely be dominated by somewhat polemic and positional viewpoints on the value and risks of separately enshrined children’s rights and away from the important question of what kind of language and constitutionalist value relating to children we as a people want to enshrine in the Bunreacht.

This danger is exacerbated in the context of children’s rights in Ireland by the particular social context in which the proposed wording has emerged. The recent past has brought to public attention the neglect and abuse suffered by children in Ireland at the hands of institutions to whom their care was entrusted, particularly institutions run by religious orders. The scale and extremity of the abuse and neglect that has been exposed has put the vulnerabilities experienced by children into sharp relief. In addition, the position of children who are being cared for within the family has also been brought into public consciousness in cases and controversies surrounding matters such as parental refusal for blood transfusions, medical treatment, access and guardianship, legal protection for the child’s relationship with unmarried fathers and so on. Read more…

Blog Carnival on the Proposed Child Rights Constitutional Amendment (Expressions of Interest)

February 22, 2010 Leave a comment

On Friday 26 February, Human Rights in Ireland will host a mini Blog Carnival on the draft wording for a constitutional amendment on the child set out in the final report of the Oireachtas Committee on the Constitutional Amendment on Children.

Postings could take a number of different forms, including:

– Analyses of the draft wording in terms of its capacity to address current shortcomings in children’s rights protection under the constitutional framework. Topics of particular interest would include the implications of the draft wording for the realisation of children’s rights in areas such as child protection, adoption/guardianship, child poverty, refugee children, children in care and children in custody.

– Issues surrounding a forthcoming referendum on the draft wording. What forms are the various campaigns around any such referendum likely to take? What obstacles exist with regard to advancing or improving the wording as it stands? What factors will influence the ultimate outcome of such a referendum?

As well as relying on the in-house expertise of Human Rights in Ireland bloggers, those in the human rights, community, voluntary and other related sectors are invited to submit proposals for commentary that they may wish to make on the budget. Blog posts should be between 400-1,000 words (max).

Those interested are asked to contact me at aoife.nolan@qub.ac.uk (before noon 24 February 2010) so that a full Blog Programme can be ready to upload on 26 February.

Call for Blog Posts: Ireland and Popular Critiques of Human Rights

January 13, 2010 Leave a comment

[The European Convention on Human Rights] was drafted specifically with the appalling abuses of World War II in mind. Do you really think that putting crucifixes on the walls of state classrooms can in any way, shape or form be compared with what the Nazis and others did in World War II? No, I didn’t think so.

David Quinn, Irish Independent, Nov 6, 2009

It will become clear that the actions [of Portmarnock Golf Club] raise very fundamental questions to do with the constitutional rights of citizens to associate with one another, and the powers of the State to regulate, penalise, or discourage such association and cognate matters, including the right to associate for purposes disapproved of by the political establishment, or by the “great and the good” in Government, the media, the quangos and elsewhere.

Mr. Justice Adrian Hardiman in Equality Authority v Portmarnock Golf Club

[Amnesty International’s] Irish manifestation has apparently mission-crept into being an advocate for the entire PC agenda. Though hundreds are starving to death in Mugabe’s jails, the Congo is darkness personified, Iran is an Islamic tyranny, and unspeakable things are happening in just about every country ending in “-istan”, Amnesty Ireland is campaigning for marriage rights for homosexuals.

Kevin Myers, Irish Independent, August 12, 2009

Rights are inalienable, they are not granted at the whim of the state – anything gifted to us by the Dáil, the EU parliament or the courts can just as easily be taken away. If abortion is a right then it must be fought for in open debate, not introduced by the back door through legalistic complaining. Even if the court decides in favour of a change to Irish law it will do no one any favours. State bodies already have too much to say about what goes on in our bodies and inviting the courts to decide what is right and wrong surrenders individual sovereignty.

Jason Walsh, forth.ie, 10 December, 2009

As regular readers will know, every so often we run blog carnivals where we invite academics and researchers to write posts (about 500-1000 words) on a particular theme. (See examples here and here). I’m hoping to curate one on March 17th which will address the topic of Ireland’s human rights culture, or lack thereof. In particular I want us to think about the apparent  popular aversion to institutionalised human rights in Ireland, and to engage with those arguments…creatively (and perhaps not defensively). I am hoping that we will get to think critically about Ireland’s human rights culture, examine its flaws and imagine alternative possibilities. This isn’t a new debate – the outlines are well laid out by scholars such as Zizek, Douzinas, Nedelsky and Brown– but maybe it is one that Irish human rights scholars need to have again.

I’m looking for participants in a blog carnival. So if you would like to join in, please email maireadenright@gmail.com and let me know, with a line or two on the idea you would like to blog about. Some topics I would like to see addressed (this is by no means an exhaustive list) are:

  • Judicial activism and human rights.
  • The juridification of human rights.
  • International and European human rights institutions and Irish sovereignty.
  • The incompatibility of human rights discourse with a particularly Irish cultural or religious outlook.
  • The usefulness of human rights institutions.
  • The subject of human rights discourse and the rights claims of the marginalised.
  • The spread of human rights beyond their ‘original’ territory – human rights ‘mission creep’.

What we’re looking for really are coherent, readable punchy posts – from scholars of all disciplines – about ideas which, though they might be quite familiar to you, don’t get much of an airing in the media. It is very important that the posts address head-on standard critiques of human rights law and institutions in a reasoned and balanced way. Posts applying theory to concrete problems are best, but we’re not averse to high falutin’ theory either. Alternative/radical/rejuvenated visions of human rights are also of interest.

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…

Duffy on Budget 2010: Targeting the Lost Generation

December 10, 2009 5 comments

This is our third guest post from Deirdre Duffy. You can read about Deirdre on our Guest Contributors page.

At present, young people, particularly young men under 24 are the biggest losers in the economic downturn. The generation who entered the workforce in a period of unprecedented growth now make up the largest proportion of Ireland’s unemployed. Like their predecessors in the 1970s and 1980s, they will not only suffer the brunt of the economic downturn but it is likely that the career pathways and prospects of many members of this group will never recover. Already Ireland is experiencing a new wave of economically-driven emigration, many of whom will never return. At the sake of being accused of alarmism, Ireland is steadily allowing a generation of young people to be pushed to the sidelines and facing a return to the culture of exit, of emigration, endemic to Irish society until the 1990s.

Read more…