Welcome to the quarterly newsletter of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission
 
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Issue 3 2017
 
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Welcome

Welcome to the newsletter of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission. The information and links below give updates on some of the Commission's work, alongside resources and information on human rights and equality.

In this issue:

For more information on our work visit www.ihrec.ie or follow our twitter feed on @_IHREC

 
 

Who experiences discrimination in Ireland?

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Almost one in eight people in Ireland have experienced discrimination according to a new Commission study, which draws on CSO responses from 15,000 adults. The report on behalf of the Commission by the ESRI shows that discrimination is felt acutely among specific groups.

The “Who experiences discrimination in Ireland?" report examines people’s experiences of discrimination at work, in recruitment and in accessing public services (education, transport, health, other public services) and private services (housing, banks/insurance companies, shops/pubs/restaurants).

Access to and use of good quality data and empirical research are of crucial importance in identifying the barriers to the full enjoyment of human rights and equality that persist in our society, as well as the people whom these barriers most affect.

Resources

The report on who experiences discrimination in Ireland?

Related Media

RTÉ Drivetime report (at 1hr 13mins, 30secs) 

The Times Ireland article

Irish Examiner article

Daily Mirror article

The Journal.ie article

Commission media release

 
 

Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture

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Ten years to the day after Ireland signaled its intention to ratify the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture (OPCAT), the Commission launched a new report “Ireland and the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture”  making evidence-based suggestions towards Ireland’s ratification and implementation.  

On the same day, the Commission hosted a high-level event bringing together national and international experts, which included Professor Malcolm Evans, the Chairperson of UN Sub-Committee for the Prevention of Torture, the Head of the Norwegian National Preventative Mechanism, Helga Fastrup Ervik, and Professor Rachel Murray, Professor of International Human Rights at the University of Bristol and co-author of the report. The OPCAT report focuses on moving beyond Ireland’s ratification to implementing its requirements.

The Optional Protocol would require the State to set up a National Preventative Mechanism (NPM) to allow unfettered access and increased independent inspection of all places of detention, including Garda stations, but also including care and residential settings.

Resources

The report on Ireland and the Optional Protocol

Related Media

Irish Times article

Irish Examiner article

Commission media release

 
 

Oireachtas reporting - Committee on the 8th Amendment of the Constitution

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The Commission appeared before the Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, in its role as the independent national human rights and equality body for Ireland, directly accountable to the Oireachtas.

Emily Logan, Chief Commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission and Commissioner and Professor Siobhán Mullally addressed the Committee, and responded to a large number of questions from TDs and Senators.

The Commission’s functions as set out under the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act 2014, include the task to "keep under review the adequacy and effectiveness of law and practice in the State relating to the protection of human rights and equality" and the Commission also published a policy document to outline some of the principles that may best inform a reformed legal and regulatory framework governing access to abortion in Ireland.

Resources

Commission policy document 

Oireachtas video of the committee hearing

Related Media

Irish Times article

Irish Examiner article

RTÉ Drivetime (piece at 2hrs 11mins 20secs ) 

Commission media release

 
 

Oireachtas Reporting - Committee on Budgetary Oversight

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Budget 2018 saw further progress on Equality Budgeting, as the issue was directly addressed by the Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure & Reform in his Budget speech and a Government policy paper was published showing progress in setting out, for the first time, a focused approach to equality budgeting in the 2018 budgetary cycle.

Minister Donohoe, in his budget speech committed to continuing work with the Commission on equality and gender proofing:

“I am also pleased to say that work on equality and gender proofing of the Budget continues. The Government is working with partners such as the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission to achieve the goal set out in the Programme for Government relating to equality and gender proofing of Budget measures.

“Concrete steps include cross-departmental workshops with the Commission, examination of international best practice and the development of a policy document which will be published today. This afternoon, I want to reconfirm that the Government will continue to provide leadership in this area. We will work with the Commission and others active in this field to ensure that equality and gender proofing is delivered.”

The May 2016 Programme for a Partnership Government, set out a commitment to “develop the process of budget and policy proofing as a means of advancing equality, reducing poverty and strengthening economic and social rights,” and committed to drawing directly on the expertise of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission to support the proofing process.

The Commission, addressed the Oireachtas Committee on Budgetary Oversight, for the second time, as part of its strategic work to advance human rights and equality budget proofing.

Resources

Oireachtas clip of Budget 2018 

Oireachtas video of committee meeting

Government policy paper on equality budgeting

Administration journal special edition on human rights and equality budget proofing

Related Media

Irish Times article

Commission media release

 
 

Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings

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The Commission continues to use its statutory role as Ireland’s National Human Rights Institution, to raise awareness of State failings in identifying and sufficiently protect victims of human trafficking in Ireland. 

Ireland’s compliance with the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings has been  assessed by the Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking (GRETA) Evaluation Report.

The Commission raised key concerns on how victims of trafficking are identified, protected and supported, in December 2016, when meeting with GRETA. These same concerns have now been reflected in the final Council of Europe report.

The Commission submitted to GRETA that reform of the system for the early and proactive identification of victims of trafficking in human beings is overdue in Ireland. GRETA in its report advocates a formalisation of the identification process with detailed recommendations on the urgent steps required to be taken by the State.

The Commission has also previously used its amicus curiae function to highlight human trafficking issues in the significant ‘P Case’ of a Vietnamese woman arrested.

The Commission is clear that victims of trafficking may continue to go unidentified and unaided, and traffickers may continue to act with impunity. Without the appropriate State procedures and protections in place, to ensure early identification of victims of trafficking they cannot get the vital protection, support and advice they need.

Resources

Commission report to the GRETA Committee

Council of Europe evaluation report

Related Media

Irish Independent article

Commission media release

 
 

Advancing human rights and equality in the courts - securing the right to seek employment

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The Commission, under its legal powers exercised its amicus curiae (friend of the court) function in a landmark Supreme Court case on the right of an individual living in direct provision to earn a livelihood. The Commission now awaits the Government response to the Supreme Court, due by the end of November.

The Court found that, in principle, a non-citizen, including an asylum seeker, may be entitled to invoke the personal rights under the Constitution, including possibly the right to work, if it can be established that to do otherwise would fail to hold such a person equal as a human person. It noted that ‘work is connected to the dignity and freedom of the individual’ something which the Constitution seeks to promote.

The Commission was clear in its submissions that the denial of a right to work for asylum seekers has a severe impact, particularly for those who have been in the asylum process for lengthy periods of time.

Resources

Commission legal submission as amicus curiae (friend of the court)

Related Media

Irish Examiner article

Irish Times article

Commission media release

 
 

Advancing human rights and equality in the courts - securing the rights of persons with disabilities

POLICING IN IRELAND: ACCOUNTABILITY AND OVERSIGHT; INTERROGATION AND CUSTODY; DUTY TO INVESTIGATE (ARTICLES 6, 7, 11 & 12 UNCAT) 

The Commission has been granted liberty to exercise its amicus curiae (friend of the court) function in an important case relating to the right of persons detained in mental health hospitals to challenge orders (‘renewal orders’) authorising their ongoing detention for a period of 12 months.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission applied to appear as amicus curiae in this case, as it raises important issues involving the decision to detain people in mental health hospitals, and the right of the patient to seek regular review of such decisions.

On the 3 May 2017, the High Court held that a person detained under the Mental Health Acts for a lengthy period was entitled to challenge the lawfulness of their continued detention at reasonable intervals before a court, citing Article 5(4) of the European Convention on Human Rights. The absence under the Mental Health Acts of a mechanism to review the lawfulness of such a detention, other than appealing the Mental Health Tribunal’s decision to the Circuit Court immediately following the renewal order, was considered by the High Court to be incompatible with the State’s obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights Acts.

Related Media

Irish Legal News article

Law Society Gazette article

Commission media release

 
 

Advancing human rights and equality in the courts - securing socio economic rights - housing

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The Commission provided legal representation  to a Donegal Traveller family in launching a High Court challenge to a decision of Donegal County Council to defer housing support to them. The family included two children with serious medical needs, who have been living without basic facilities, including running water.

As the proceedings were particularly concerned with the human rights of children, the Commission provided legal assistance under Section 40 of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act 2014.

Donegal County Council, following the launch of the High Court challenge in August, has agreed to an order quashing its original decision, and to reconsider the family’s social housing application.

The legal challenge focused on the decision made by the Council to defer the family’s housing application, with an emphasis on the decision-making process, including the fact that the decision was taken without any opportunity for input from the family concerned. The family argued that the deferral of housing was disproportionate and adversely impacted on the rights of their children, such as their right to bodily integrity, to dignity, to freedom from degrading conditions, to nurture and support within the family structure, and to education.

Legal assistance, can take the form of the provision of legal advice; legal representation or other assistance to the applicant as the Commission deems appropriate in the circumstances.

Resources

Commission media release

Related Media

Irish Times article

The Journal.ie article

 
 

Commission meets Minister with special responsibility for Disabilities

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The Commission met in October with Finian McGrath T.D., Minister of State with special responsibility for Disabilities to emphasise its calls of several years for the State to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

The Commission has made direct interventions and recommendations to Government, Oireachtas Members and to International Human Rights monitoring bodies. Ireland today stands alone as the only EU Member State not to have ratified the UN Convention

Resources

Supplementary Observations on the Disability (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2016

Observations on the General Scheme of the Equality / Disability (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill

Commission report "Article 33: Establishing a Monitoring Framework for the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities”

 
 

Implementing the Public Sector Equality and Human Rights Duty

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The Commission hosted two events, in Dublin and in Limerick to assist public bodies in understanding the Public Sector Equality and Human Rights Duty. 

All public bodies in Ireland have a positive responsibility to promote equality, prevent discrimination and protect the human rights of their staff and the persons to whom they provides services. This is a legal obligation, called the Public Sector Equality and Human Rights Duty, set out in Section 42 of the Commission's founding legislation.

With almost three hundred people attending the two events, attendees were provided with information and guidance, and heard keynote presentations from international and national speakers alongside practical workshops.

Workshops focused on implementing the Public Sector Equality and Human Rights Duty in local authorities, in higher education, government departments and look at partnership and inter-agency approaches at the local level.

Resources

The Public Sector Equality and Human Rights Duty- information booklet

Commission webpage

 
 

Human Rights and Equality Grants Scheme 2017

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32 organisations have been awarded funding for projects under the Commission's Human Rights and Equality Grants Scheme 2017.

Now in its second year, the Human Rights and Equality Grants Scheme 2017 was open to Irish based groups working to further human rights and equality in communities and nationally, including local groups, civil society groups, and public bodies. The Human Rights and Equality Grants Scheme 2017 is part of the Commission’s statutory power to provide grants to promote human rights and equality under the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act 2014.

In awarding the 2017 grants the Commission focused on two overarching themes, in line with its strategic focus:

  1. Intercultural understanding and diversity 
  2. Supporting implementation of the Public Sector Equality and Human Rights Duty 

Resources

Projects receiving the Human Rights and Equality Grants Scheme 2017

Related media

Commission media release

 

 
 

Equality and Human Rights at the Ploughing Championships

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The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission was delighted to return once again to the National Ploughing Championships this year, held in Screggan, Tullamore, Co. Offaly.

Participation is a fundamental value underpinning our operations. Listening to the public’s views and starting conversations on human rights and equality is a cornerstone of our work.

Our thanks to all those who visited our stand and contributed their views to our survey asking: “What is the most important human rights and equality issue in Ireland?

The Commission also used the event of the ploughing to release our new video guide to the Equal Status Acts, which sets out for people how they can know their rights and stand up to discrimination.

Resources

 Video guide to the Equal Status Acts

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