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Posts Tagged ‘Guest Contributions’

Egan on a Charter of Rights for the island of Ireland

December 2, 2009 1 comment

We are delighted to welcome this guest post from Suzanne Egan on a Charter of Rights for the island of Ireland. Although Suzanne is a member of the Irish Human Rights Commission as well as a lecturer in UCD School of Law, she contributes this post in a strictly personal capacity. You can find out more about Suzanne on our guest contributors page.

Paragraph 9 of the Rights, Safeguards and Equality of Opportunity section of the Belfast Agreement provides explicitly for a Joint Committee of the Human Rights Commissions, North and South, to consider “the possibility of establishing a Charter, open to signature by all democratic political parties, reflecting and endorsing agreed measures for the protection of the fundamental rights of everyone living in the island of Ireland”.  While this aspect of the agreement has received limited attention in academic and indeed political circles, it gives rise to a myriad of interesting theoretical and practical issues.

For example, what is the mandate of the Joint Committee in this matter? The phraseology of the Agreement seems deliberately vague on this point: it does not compel the Joint Committee to actually produce a draft Charter, but merely “to consider… the possibility of establishing” same (emphasis added).   In its first attempt to engage with its duties under paragraph 9 by way of a pre-consultation paper in 2003, the Committee took the view that it would be incumbent on it to actually produce such a Charter.  But is this interpretation really warranted on the text, or advisable, given the questions that will inevitably be raised about its legitimacy, expertise and indeed capacity to do so.

Second, what objective would be served by an all-island Charter of rights? The Pre-Consultation paper outlines various models for a Charter which, in the view of the Joint Committee back then, could be open to signature not only by the political parties, but also by the Northern Ireland Executive and the two governments.  These include a declaratory, progressive and enforceable model.  The Joint Committee expressed a preference for a progressive model which would commit signatories to the progressive achievement of quite a detailed array of human rights guarantees.  But the paper does not, in my view, adequately address the question of what added-value such a Charter would bring to the current and indeed anticipated framework of human rights on both sides of the island.

The Joint-Committee’s pre-consultation foray in 2003 failed to stimulate a significant response from the political parties and civil society in either jurisdiction.  Its work on the Charter subsequently stalled, mainly on account of the evolving Bill of Rights process in Ireland.  Now that the Northern Commission has submitted its advice on the Bill of Rights to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, it looks like the attention of the Joint Committee will inevitably turn to the Charter. Indeed, a recent conference hosted by the School of Law in UCD attempted to reignite dialogue around a Charter of Rights.  When the Joint Committee’s attention turns to the Charter, it is imperative that the Committee look more closely at its mandate; consider fully the possible objectives of any potential Charter; and establish a balanced and constructive consultation on the matter, which, most importantly engages the political parties (see further: S.Egan and R.Murray, (2007) 56 I.C.L.Q. 797-386).

Guest Contribution: Rossa McMahon on Gangland law: Crime Fighting Tool or Gimmick?

November 20, 2009 Leave a comment

We are delighted to feature this guest contribution from Rossa McMahon. Rossa is a solicitor in Patrick G McMahon Solicitors, Newcastle West, Limerick. You can find out more about him on our Guest Contributors page.

Two recent Government initiatives were introduced largely for the benefit of Limerick City: Limerick Regeneration and the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act 2009. It will take some time before the benefits of Limerick Regeneration can be known, but what about the Act?

There are two important and incontrovertible facts about the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act 2009. First: it made significant changes to the nature of Irish criminal law. Second: it was railroaded through the Oireachtas with no meaningful debate. If the Government were to attempt any equally fundamental change to the health service or education sector, to take two examples, the howls of protest would emphasise the lack of consultation with those working at the coal face.

Of course, our Oireachtas and Government do not always proceed with such haste in implementing new policies. Take the example of the amalgamation of cultural institutions, for which it appears thorough preparatory work is necessary before implementing legislation is ready.

On the week in which the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Bill 2009 was subject to much media comment, Minister Martin Cullen stated in the Seanad that he had initiated various forms of consultation relating to reform of our cultural institutions and that we should not “rush down this road for the sake of doing so.” Quite reasonably, the Minister “want[ed] to take great care in ensuring that whatever outcome we have is the one that works best nationally and internationally for our institutions.”

Without wishing to trivialise our cultural institutions, Minister Cullen was trying to streamline the administration of a handful of galleries. Minister Ahern has introduced a law which a large number of our leading criminal lawyers have said is unnecessary, probably unconstitutional, will “jettison ancient rights and rules of evidence” and has been introduced “without any research to support its desirability and without canvassing expert opinion or inviting contribution from interested parties”.

Read more…

Guest Contribution: Hayward on Cohabitation in England Wales-Learning from Ireland?

November 5, 2009 Leave a comment

unhappy%20coupleWe are delighted to feature this guest contribution from Andrew Hayward of Durham University Law School. You can find out more about Andrew on the Guest Contributors page. Unfortunately we do not have a photograph of Andrew but he has supplied us with the photograph on the left of an unhappy–presumably cohabiting–couple.

For family lawyers in England and Wales, cohabitation has long been the hot topic for debate. Various reform proposals have been produced here that, if implemented, could have provided some amelioration to the current legal provision offered to cohabitants on relationship breakdown. Optimists were hoping that the proposals in the Law Commission’s Report Cohabitation: Financial Consequences of Relationship Breakdown in 2007 would have been introduced to remedy the current unsatisfactory position by providing qualifying cohabitants an array of remedies on the breakdown of their relationship. No draft bill was inserted and due to the politically contentious nature of the provisions it was unsurprising that the Government chose to await findings from a similar scheme in Scotland by way of the Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006 (see the ministerial statement here). Since then two Private Members bills have been introduced, both with unlikely chances of success. So after reading the thought provoking posts from Fiona and Mairead on the cohabitation aspects of the Irish Civil Partnership Bill 2009, it appears that, yet again, England and Wales will be lagging behind. Read more…

Guest Contribution: Conway on Compensation for Miscarriages of Justice

November 3, 2009 Leave a comment

vickyWe are very pleased to feature this guest contribution from Dr Vicky Conway of QUB School of Law on compensation for miscarriages of justice. You can find out more about Vicky on the ‘Guest Contributors’ page.

The Irish Times reports today that the Minister for Justice has failed to make a determination on compensation to be paid to Nora Wall for the miscarriage of justice which occurred in her case. This brings into serious question the operation of the compensation section of the Criminal Justice Act 1993. This legislation provides individuals with recourse to the Court of Criminal Appeal where new or newly discovered facts show that there may have been a miscarriage of justice in their case. Under s.9, where the Court declares that there is has been a miscarriage of justice the individual is entitled to compensation, and they can choose either to apply to the Minister who determines the amount or to institute High Court proceedings. This brings Ireland in line with requirements under Article 3 of Protocol 7 of the European Convention on Human Rights and with similar statements in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Sister Nora Wall was convicted in 2005 of rape (the first female in the state to be found guilty of this offence) and sentenced to life imprisonment. Six weeks after her conviction, and four days after sentencing, her conviction was quashed by the Court of Appeal and the DPP agreed to retrial when it became apparent that there had been non-disclosure of evidence in relation to one witness. Within four months the DPP announced that he would not be pursuing the retrial and supported her application to the Court of Appeal for a declaration of miscarriage of justice, which was granted later that year ([2005] IE CCA 140). One of the complainants had a history of making false complaints of assault and a key witness had been declared unreliable prior to the trial and should never have appeared in court. Read more…

Guest Post: Gordon Brown’s Mixed Bag of Moral Contradictions.

October 2, 2009 5 comments

810441-duffyWe are delighted to welcome this guest post from Deirdre Duffy (left) reflecting on Gordon Brown’s speech to the Labour Party Conference. Deirdre, a graduate of UCC and PhD candidate in Nottingham, has extensive experience in researching the impact of Labour’s ‘respect agenda’ on socio-economic rights in Britain. You can find a biography of Deirdre on the Guest Contributors page.

More a ‘fist thump’ than a ‘swansong’ according to The Guardian, Gordon Brown’s keynote address at the Labour Party Conference in Brighton this week sought to re-establish the core elements of the party-line in a campaign manifesto which served more as a quick guide to New Labour than a promotion of the party’s own prowess. Like Blair – and Cameron for that matter – the Prime Minister has tried to position himself at the moral centre of British politics, stressing ‘values’ and social responsibility and proposing an ambitious set of policies to support the most vulnerable members of British society. However laudable as this may sound, a brief glance at Brown’s manifesto shows that, like Blair, the Brownite approach appears to have conflated ‘support’ with ‘control’ and proposes a system where services to vulnerable groups will become steadily more inaccessible and conditional. Read more…