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Posts Tagged ‘Irish Human Rights Commission’

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.

The Equality and Rights Alliance and the Promise of a Counter-Discourse

November 25, 2009 6 comments

This post builds on a brief exchange with Padraig at the foot of this post, which reported on a speech by Colm Ó Cinnéide at the Equality and Rights Alliance ‘Fairer Ireland’ conference, which took place yesterday. An important report was launched at yesterday’s conference. Entitled Downgrading Equality and Human Rights: Assessing the Impact it focuses on two key issues. First, it outlines the impact of reductions in funding on the work of the IHRC and the Equality Authority. Second, and perhaps more importantly, it outlines fundamental structural deficiencies in the relationships between the human rights watchdogs and government departments which fatally undermine their independence.

The principal conclusions of the report are that:

• The independence of both bodies has been breached. The main points were identified as the behind-closed-doors system of selection and appointment, accountability to government ministers and departments rather than Parliament, civil service staffing and lack of financial insulation of budget from the caprice of government ministers.
• The budget cuts appear to have had a significant impact on the work of the Irish Human Rights Commission and an unquantifiable impact on the work of the Equality Authority. Indicators are presented that enable these issues to be tracked in a number of ways at several levels.
• The design of the Irish Human Rights Commission and the Equality Authority, taken together, does not reach a modern interpretation of the full application of the Paris principles nor the ECRI recommendations, nor in the case of Equality Authority, the 2000 Race Directive.

The report does highlight some deficiencies in the IHRC and EA’s  operations prior to the recent budget cuts. Nevertheless, it is evident that neither organisation can improve – indeed the report doubts whether the IHRC can continue to function – on their current shoe-string budgets.

Joanna McMinn’s foreword to the report  outlines the task which the ERA has now set itself:

These are grim times for equality and human rights in Ireland. In October last year budgetary cuts were introduced that have reduced The Equality Authority and the Irish Human Rights Commission to sha-dows of what they were, and should be, in this recessionary period of growing economic and social inequalities.

The upheaval of autumn 2008 also marked a critical fracture in the development of Irish social policy. Given the scale of the cuts made, it is now widely acknowledged that motives really lie in political choices to reconfigure institutions of the state to reduce the values of equality, rights and solidarity rather than solely economic imperatives and value for money.

Equality & Rights Alliance (ERA) formed in order to resist this deliberate and politically motivated targeting of the Irish equality and human rights institutions. The Alliance has subsequently developed its role, positioning itself as an independent and critical voice for the reinstatement and strengthening of the equality and human rights infrastructure in Ireland. We believe that equality and human rights must be central to Ireland’s recovery and rebuilding, not something that can be discarded when it is an irritant or inconvenient.

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IHRC Annual Lecture, December 9th 2009

November 17, 2009 Leave a comment

The Irish Human Rights Commission‘s annual lecture takes place on Wednesday, 9th December 2009 at the National Gallery, Merrion Sq., Dublin 2.

This year, Noble Laureate, Seamus Heaney will deliver the lecture.

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Creating a Human Rights Culture in Legislative Design: Shortfallings of the ECHR Act 2003

October 23, 2009 Leave a comment

dailchamberI am currently finishing a book with Cliona Kelly on the ECHR Act 2003, which will be published by Thompson Round Hall next year. One of the chapters for which I have responsibility is on the legislative impact of the Act, and reading Aoife’s post here about Maurice Manning’s recent speech in which he recommended the establishment of a proper parliamentary committee on human rights put me in mind of some of the arguments that we make in that chapter. The passage of the ECHR Act was an opportunity for the creation or structures through which we could try to bring about a culture of taking human rights obligations seriously in the design and passage of legislation. In reality, however, I am not sure that this has in fact happened especially as a result of the failure to set up a standing Oireachtas committee to carry out rights-based scrutiny of legislation and to require ministerial statements in relation to whether proposed legislation complies with the Convention. Both of these mechanisms are in place in the UK where they are very effective.

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Manning on Resourcing Human Rights Bodies and the Belfast Agreement

October 20, 2009 Leave a comment

The Irish Times reports that the president of the Irish Human Rights Commission, which lost nearly a third of its budget last year, will “not be able to exist” if the Government imposes further cuts this year. Mr Manning was addressing the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly in Swansea.

In addition to highlighting the issue of funding for the IHRC, Mr Manning argued in his presentation that Commission should be made accountable to the Oireachtas and not to a governmental department. (Section 23 of the Human Rights Commission Act 2000 renders the Commission accountable to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform).

Reasons advanced by Mr Manning for the proposed change included the fact that,

Such a link would not only be in keeping with international best practice, but would also acknowledge that human rights impact on all areas of law, policy and practice in Ireland and not merely issues within the justice sector.

Furthermore, it would honour the recommendation of the UN Human Rights Committee, which in its most recent Concluding Observations to the Government called for the IHRC’s independence and capacity to be further enhanced by, as the Committee stated, “endowing it with adequate and sufficient resources and linking it to the Oireachtas”.

He also called for the establishment of a joint committee on human rights by the Oireachtas, modelled on the existing one in Westminster, “to scrutinise all government Bills and government action on judgments of the domestic courts, and the European Court of Human Rights would strengthen Ireland’s strong commitment to human rights”.

Conference on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Dublin, 21 November 2009

October 1, 2009 4 comments

IHRCThe Irish Human Rights Commission and the Law Society of Ireland are hosting the Annual Human Rights Conference on 21 November 2009, 9am-3.30p.m. in the President’s Hall, Law Society, Blackhall Place.

The theme of this years conference is:

Economic, Social and Cultural Rights-Making States Accountable

HC_Pillay_bioThe Keynote Speaker will be Ms Navanethem Pillay, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

To register your interest in attending, you can contact Anthea Moore, Law Society at A.Moore@lawsociety.ie.