Posts Tagged ‘ireland’

The Female Genital Mutilation Act 2010?

April 21, 2010 7 comments

Today, Senator Ivana Bacik of Labour (pictured left) will be introducing a Bill to prohibit Female Genital Mutilation in the Seanad during the Labour Party’s private members’ time.  The Bill and its Explanatory Memorandum are available here. The Minister for Health and Children has welcomed the Bill, indicating that it will be read a second time in a year or so. Labour’s press release notes that FGM Bills were introduced by Labour TDs Liz McManus (see Bill here) and Jan O’Sullivan (see Bill here) in the Dail in 2009 and 2001. Senator Bacik has said:

We urgently need a law specifically criminalising this barbaric practice which has destroyed the lives of so many girls and women world-wide. I welcome the Minister’s commitment to address this issue, but there has already been a great deal of work done on developing a legal framework, and delaying the introduction of this legislation by another year is unacceptable.

Senator Bacik’s Bill would:

  • Introduce an offence of performing female genital mutilation on a woman or girl (note the gender-specific nature of the offence), the penalty for which shall be a fine or a term of imprisonment up to 14 years or both.
  • Have extra-territorial effect so that an Irish citizen or resident who performs FGM outside of Ireland still falls within the terms of the Act.
  • Rule out any defence of parental consent in the case of a minor.
  • Allow a medical defence where the procedure was performed by a registered medical practitioner who ‘honestly believed, on reasonable grounds, that the operation was necessary to safeguard the life or health of the woman or girl concerned or to correct a genital abnormality or malformation’.

The Bill appears, to some extent, to take its cue from the UK Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003. In that jurisdiction, the legislation has fallen at the prosecution hurdle, and thus appears to have largely symbolic and perhaps deterrant value. For open-access articles which critique the UK legislation see this study by Sadiya Mohammad on the legislation’s efficacy and this article by Moira Dustin and Anne Phillips which considers the legislation in the broader context of UK law-making in the general area of women + gender + culture.

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Catholic Church and Accountability

March 20, 2010 3 comments

Today the Pope has issued his pastoral letter on child sex abuse in Ireland. A lengthy letter (full version published here), it will take time to fully digest and analyse, and indeed this analysis could perhaps focus on numerous different aspects of the letter. In this blog entry I wish to focus on just one issue arising from the letter: accountability. In particular, it is possible through this letter to consider how the Pope appears to believe he and the Vatican connect to current problems in Ireland.

Despite what many may have wished for (the letter being promised since 13 December 2009) this letter does not accept any blame or accountability for the current scandal in Ireland. Instead we see an allocation of blame directly on the priests who offended and some senior members of the Church in Ireland who made leadership mistakes. The fault lies in Ireland, not in the Vatican. The word ‘we’ is nowhere to be seen in the discussions of the Church, the fault, the apology. Read more…

Passports and assassinations

February 19, 2010 1 comment

The revelation at the start of this week that assassins had made use of Irish, British, German and French passports to perpetuate a murder in Dubai has shocked many. However this is far from the first time this has been done and rarely if ever is anyone held accountable for it.  The repercussions are often more political than legal. During the 1980s Margarete Thatcher ordered the closing down of Mossad’s base in London and an assurance that British passports would not be used again by Israeli forces after a similar event. However, if it is proved to once again that there are  Mossad agents involved it will only reinforce the notion that certain states can continue to act unlawfully even in situations where there are clear breaches of international and domestic law.

At the request of Dubai, Interpol have issued a ‘red notice’ to help in the idenficiation of the assassins of Hamas cammader Mahmoud al-Mabhhouh(who incidently also entered Dubai using a false passport). While most suspicision has fallen upon Israel, there is as yet no evidence to directly link Mossad to the assassination, though it is possible that more evidence will emerge.

Micheál Martin T.D., the Minister for Foreign Affairs, invited the Israeli ambassador to discuss the issue with him this morning. The tone of the press release was not as strident as the statements from the British Foreign Secretary David Miliband M.P. The Department of Foreign Affairs stated that:

It was stressed that, regardless of who was responsible, the Government takes grave exception to the forgery and misuse of Irish passports which could devalue the standing of the passports and potentially put at risk the safety of Irish citizens travelling abroad.

An important question is what action could the Irish Government take if it is proved that Israel or any other state was behind the assassination. The most obvious place to start is the law surrounding state responsibility. The International Law Commission’s Draft Articles on State Responsibility provide in article 1 that every state is responsible for its international wrongful acts and certainly the forging or otherwise of passports, which generally remain the property of the issuing government would be considered such. International wrongful acts can be bilateral or as the International Court of Justice averred in the Barcelona Traction Case international. It would also have to be under Article 2 (a) an act attributable to the state and therefore there would have to be proof that it was Mossad agents involved in the assassination. If it were for instance Hamas that ordered the assassination it would be very difficult to assert that any state had direct or indirect control of Hamas. The Nicaragua case before the ICJ has set a very high standard for elements of direct or indirect control of armed bands. Israel has not made a declaration of acceptance of the permanent jurisdiction of the ICJ and therefore if Ireland wished to take a case against Israel it would have to rely on a treaty that granted jurisdiction to the ICJ or some other court or tribunal. Countermeasures cannot be taken by one state against another punitively and therefore it would be difficult for Ireland to take an action unless there is an ongoing breach of international law.Indeed according to the ICJ in the Gabčíkovo-Nagymaros Project countermeasures must be proportional and non-punitive.

Of course if it was proved to be Israel that is involved, Ireland may be willing to accept an apology for the use of Irish passports, however this does not resolve the more disturbing broader issue of extra-judicial killings.

Media Mashup: Report by the Commission of Investigation into the Archdiocese of Dublin

November 26, 2009 4 comments

Friday update: More excellent indepth coverage from the Irish Times here, here and here. It also runs an interesting story on the ‘good value’ insurance policy that the Dublin Archdiocese took out to protect itself against child sex abuse litigation, queries government delays in updating child protection law and highlights the role of canon law in this debacle.

PrimeTime’s special on the report is here.


The Report of the Murphy Commission is now online here at the website of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. The Irish Times explains the background to the report here and here. The Times has the main findings of the report in respect of Dublin’s Archbishops from John Charles McQuaid to Desmond Connell here. The response of advocacy groups is reported by RTE here and here and by the BBC here. One in Four has called for a criminal investigation into all those who “colluded and conspired to protect the Catholic Church” from sex-abuse allegations in the Dublin Archdiocese. Amnesty and Barnardos have urged the Taoiseach to respond with a referendum on children’s constitutional rights. The Archbishop of Dublin’s response to the report is here.

Speaking after the publication of the report, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform said:

‘The persons who committed these dreadful crimes – no matter when they happened – will continue to be pursued. ‘They must come to know that there is no hiding place. That justice – even where it may have been delayed – will not be denied.’

Minister for Children, Barry Andrews followed Ahern’s speech with this statement on Ireland’s child protection regime.

The government has also released a statement in response to the report,which concludes:

It is a fundamental feature of our democracy that no Government can seek to prescribe how Churches are run. But Government can and must ensure that all institutions are subject to the laws of the State. Central to those laws must be the protection of children. It may be cold comfort to the victims of abuse in the past, but as a Government we pledge, on behalf of the Irish people, that we will do whatever is necessary to make sure that the dark days of sexual abuse of children, compounded by cover up and complicity, are over for good.

Patsy McGarry, reporting in the Irish Times writes:

The Commission of Investigation into Dublin’s Catholic Archdiocese has concluded that there is “no doubt” that clerical child sexual abuse was covered up by the archdiocese and other Church authorities….In its report, published this afternoon, it has also found that “the structures and rules of the Catholic Church facilitated that cover-up.” It also found that “the State authorities facilitated the cover-up by not fulfilling their responsibilities to ensure that the law was applied equally to all and allowing the Church institutions to be beyond the reach of the normal law enforcement processes.” Over the period within its remit “the welfare of children, which should have been the first priority, was not even a factor to be considered in the early stages,” it said. “Instead the focus was on the avoidance of scandal and the preservation of the good name, status and assets of the institution and of what the institution regarded as its most important members – the priests,” it said. In making its main findings, the report it concluded that “it is the responsibility of the State to ensure that no similar institutional immunity is ever allowed to occur again. This can be ensured only if all institutions are open to scrutiny and not accorded an exempted status by any organs of the State.”

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On This Day

November 19, 2009 1 comment

On November 19, 1920, an event took place which has some resonance for current discussions on American foreign policy and transitional justice. Hearings of an American Commission to Investigate the Irish Question opened in Washington. The Commission was intended to conduct an ‘impartial inquiry’ into conditions in Ireland. Evidence was taken from, among others, the poet Padraic Colum. The Commission heard that, at the time, an ‘orgy of destruction [was] ravishing Ireland’ and that the rule of law was ‘virtually suspended’ . The Commission also heard evidence on aspirations for Ireland’s future government.

The ancient Brehon laws, from which many of the present-day socialist doctrines are derived, Mr. [Laurence] Ginnell [pictured above] said, probably will form the basis for Ireland’s form of government should the efforts of the republican leaders to gain independence from Britain prove successful. He told the committee that he had written a book on socialism, obtaining his material from these laws.

The English reaction to the Commission was markedly hostile; the London Globe called its establishment ‘damned impudence’. Noting the position of African Americans in the Southern states, and observing that the United States had a homicide rate ‘surpassing even that of Turkey’, the Globe concluded by saying that ‘[w]hen we want American advice on the Government of Ireland we will ask for it’. Sir Edward Carson declined to testify before the Commission, saying that he considered it an unwarranted interference in the affairs of a foreign friendly state.  The publications of the Commission are detailed here and here.