IHREC launch submission to UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

Commission independently reports to UN Committee on State’s performance in progressing human rights

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission today formally launched its submission to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Chief Commissioner Emily Logan said the Commission’s first report as an independent legal entity would assist the UN Committee in assessing the Irish State’s performance on human rights, particularly in the context of recent austerity measures.

The State will appear before the UN Committee in Geneva on June 8th and 9th to account for its record in fulfilling rights, such as the right to health, education, social security, an adequate standard of living and fair working conditions.

Ms Logan said: “The Government will be asked to explain, in the absence of any human rights or equality assessment of the Troika bailout programme, why the situation of many groups already susceptible to poverty or inequality were particularly affected by the recession.”

Ms Logan continued: “Our report highlights the stark choices made by Government that fall short of the basic core standards required by international human rights law. The impact of a seven-year austerity drive has been enormous and the burden of the crisis and of dominant policy responses to it has fallen disproportionately on those least able to bear its impacts.”

The UN Committee comprises a group of 18 independent international experts, who will examine the Irish State’s progress in protecting, respecting and promoting the rights contained in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).

The Commission’s report notes that since the onset of the recession, poverty rates, food poverty and homelessness, in particular family homelessness, have increased.

Ms Logan said that persons with disabilities have experienced the impacts of austerity measures acutely across the range of socio-economic categories.

“We know that people with disabilities have a higher cost of living, and a much higher rate of unemployment, almost trebling from 8 per cent to 22 per cent during the recession.”

“We await the publication of the promised Comprehensive Strategy for Persons with a Disability in the coming weeks, however; it must be accompanied by meaningful action.”

“The State could signify its real commitment to people with a disability by accelerating the ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.”

Ms Logan welcomed the passage of the Marriage Equality Referendum, and the Government’s commitment to publish an amendment to Section 37 of the Employment Equality Acts to prevent discrimination against teachers on the basis of their civil status, family status or sexual orientation.

“I also hope and expect that the upcoming legislation on school admissions will address and reduce disadvantage faced by Traveller children, migrant children and children with disabilities, who are all over-represented in DEIS schools. It should also provide for children of a minority religious faith or no faith.”

Public sector bodies have a specific legal obligation since November 2014 to implement a policy of positive duty to promote human rights and ensure equality of treatment.

“The pressing need for the healthcare sector to comply with their positive duty obligations to protect human dignity is most evident in obstetric care, in light of HIQA’s investigation into Portlaoise Hospital.”

Ms Logan concluded: “The Government has an opportunity to undertake budgetary processes in a new way – in a way that is informed by human rights and equality standards.”

The Chief Commissioner will travel to Geneva next week to observe the State’s examination by the Committee. In advance of this, the Commission will be afforded an opportunity to make an oral statement to the Committee. Ms Logan will be accompanied by Commission Members, Dr Mary Murphy and Frank Conaty.

The Commission’s report covers a wide range of issues that fall under the remit of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights including: gender equality; the right to health, in particular mental health services for children and young people; ‘zero hour’ contracts; direct provision; forced labour and trafficking; employment for people with disabilities; increased sanctions for recipients of social security payments; the inadequacy of services for victims of domestic violence; and discrimination in education.

The Report and Executive Summary are available to download:

Full report 

Executive Summary

Twitter hashtag for hearings in Geneva: #CESCR

ENDS/

For further information please contact Niamh Connolly/Fidelma Joyce on IHREC 01 8589601/ 087 4399022. Twitter: follow us @_ihrec

Note to Editors

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) was established by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act 2014. The Commission has a statutory remit to protect and promote human rights and equality in the State, to promote a culture of respect for human rights, equality and intercultural understanding and to promote understanding and awareness of the importance of human rights and equality. The IHREC is tasked with reviewing the adequacy and effectiveness of law, policy and practice relating to the protection of human rights and equality and with making recommendations to Government on measures to strengthen, protect and uphold human rights and equality accordingly.

The ICESCR is an international human rights legal treaty which dates from 1966. Ireland signed and ratified the Covenant in 1989 and is required to submit periodic reports to the UN Committee on progress made to protect, respect and fulfil the rights enshrined in this instrument. The Covenant combines economic rights such as the right to work and fair conditions of work; social rights such as the right to housing, health and an adequate standard of living; with cultural rights such as the right to ensure that a minority’s culture is respected.

Ireland has been examined by the Committee twice before, in 1999 and 2001. The State’s most recent report to the Committee covers the period from 2002 to 31 December 2010. The State submitted an update to this report in March 2015.