Last night Éamon Gilmore gave the leader’s address at the Labour Party’s annual conference. Entitled ‘One Ireland’ the conference has had a distinctive emphasis on moving forward, as a country, away from what is conceived of as broken or corrupt and towards a more mature political life in this jurisdiction. The Gilmore speech, which can be watched in full here or read here, was extremely strong on this theme and—regardless of the colour of one’s politics—is worth watching or listening to as an exercise in oratory and speech writing. What struck me in particular, however, was the proposal by Gilmore that there would be a constitutional convention with a new constitution being ready for enactment in 2016 (at the centenary of the 1916 Rising).
I have written before on HRinI of my anxiety about populist constitutional reform. What Gilmore suggested seems to have been something at once more radical and less populist than what we have seen proposed by Fine Gael recently. Gilmore suggested that we would establish a constitutional convention made up of experts and a randomly selected portion of the community (he did not mention how large the sample would be) to debate and propose new constitutional structures. The justification given for this was that the Constitution is a document written in the 1930s for the 1930s when there was considered to be one Church in Ireland and one role for women (I am paraphrasing but, as you will hear if you listen to the speech, not by much). Similar themes were recently in evidence at the excellent political cabaret, Leviathan, which suggested a new Constitution and Second Republic earlier this year. Fine Gael’s New Politics which we have written about before suggests some major constitutional reforms but does not suggest a whole-scale redrawing of the Bunreacht. Read more…
The British Labour Party yesterday published its manifesto for Election 2010. There are a number of key commitments in relation to human rights which should be highlighted (and may put them at odds with the Conservative Party).
- Demanding rights and responsibilities for all. While the Manifesto does not outline in any detail key human rights, responsibilities of all are outlined as: the obligation to work when you can; not to abuse your neighbour or neighbourhood; for newcomers to show respect for Britain and to pay a fair share of taxes;
- Committment to maintaining the new Equality Act 2010;
- Continue to support the Human Rights Act 1998, as a means of “bringing rights home“;
- Human rights as a key component to foreign policy;
- Reorientating of foreign aid issues, as key human rights issues. The Manifesto states: ” Access to health, education, food, water and sanitation are basic human rights”;
- Building a modern welfare state, where there is an obligation to work where people are in position to do so, and assisting those out of employment into employment. The Labour Pary also committs to seeking to end child poverty by 2020 (see also Child Poverty Act 2010), through increasing opportunities for parents to work.
- Commitments to older people, through improving quality of life, allowing older people who want to, to work, ensuring adequate pension provision.
- Providing greater level of choice to individuals health rights, while also expecting greater responsibilities of those using the National Health Service.
- Strengthening the immigration system so that it is firm, but fair;
- Committed to a free vote in Parliament on whether the franchise should be extended to those 16 years and older;
- Introduce an Alternative Vote system (to replace the current first past the post); Read more…