A thought on the “Yes Equality” campaign? February 19, 2015Posted by Tomboktu in Bunreacht na hÉireann, Human Rights, Inequality, LGBT.
Two of the principles that the ‘Yes Equality’ coalition — the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network, and Marriage Equality — have decided they will follow in the campaign on the referendum on marriage equality are (a) they will run a positive campaign and (b) that the referendum is not about children, as the question of children is being dealt with by the Children and Family Relationships Bill (which is to be published today).
It will be a difficult task. Their opponents are using negative campaigning and have insisted that the Children and Family Relationships Bill is at key part of the issue.
And by negative campaigning, I don’t mean merely critiquing the case for marriage equality, but insinuating stereotypes about gay men.
Last weekend’s RTÉ Radio 1 programme Saturday with Claire Byrne dealt entirely with the Children and Family Relationships Bill. It is a long and complicated piece of legislation (the most recent draft that has been published before today is 123 pages long — PDF here) and it covers a myriad of possibilities in how a child might be conceived and raised. One of the participants in Saturday’s programme was Bishop Kevin Doran. During the programme, Claire Byrne asked him to identify the substantive problem he sees with the Bill.
The core of his argument, and the Roman Catholic church’s, is that, when the genetic mother and father are not in a position to raise the child, it is preferable for a child to be brought up by a man and a woman. He picked one — and only one — example to elucidate why he thinks this is important:
Let’s just put it very simply. Take a young woman of 14, 15, 16 years of age growing to maturity and her two parents are two men. They may be the most loving, caring people in the world, but how can they respond as two men to the human, personal and feminine needs of a young woman growing up?
When he finished, the host, Claire Byrne, responded: “OK. There are probably some men who feel quite offended by that if they are bringing up a child, say a female child, on their own”, before turning to another panelist.
His opponents on the programme were three TDs: Alan Shatter, Róisín Shortall and Sean Fleming. Bishop Doran and the other “anti” panelist on the programme, Ben Conroy of the Iona Institute, were vigorously challenged about a different claim that lone parents are less than ideal when it comes to adoption, in particular by Sean Fleming whose father died when he was in school and whose mother raised him and his siblings alone.
However, none of the TDs challenged the homophobia in the bishop’s comment, none of them challenged the bishop’s assertion that two gay men would unable to respond to their daughter’s ‘feminine needs’ when she reaches puberty. And it is a theme Bishop Doran has returned to this week when he delivered a speech to a meeting in Sligo on Tuesday evening:
Bishop Doran’s attacks are crying out for a “mini Panti moment”. The next time he is on radio or television, the bishop needs to be asked what exactly is it about two men, and two gay men in particular, in contrast to a widower, that is less than ideal when it comes to raising a daughter? How does he think widowed fathers deal with the onset of menstruation in their daughters? Does he think that two gay men raising daughters are shunned by their sisters, leaving their daughter without an aunt who can take her niece to get her first bra? Indeed, does he think heterosexual fathers with wives ought to ignore their daughter’s ‘feminine needs’?
I do not know if the Yes Equality coalition declined an invitation to take part in Saturday’s programme or were not invited, but they have been notably silent this week while the suitability of two gay men to be parents has been attacked in the debate about the Bill that will, among a myriad of other things, make that possible for the first time in Ireland. However, the explicit homophobia in the broader debate needs to be challenged, even if that means modifying a commitment to be positive and an intention to focus only on the referendum. However much GLEN, Marriage Equality and the ICCL may not like it, the question of children is now part of the debate. We saw on Saturday that we cannot depend on straight allies to expose the homophobia, but if it is left unchallenged, it will damage the Yes campaign.
Ireland breaches human rights laws on workers’ rights January 29, 2015Posted by Tomboktu in Collective Bargaining, Council of Europe, Employment Rights, Human Rights, Ireland, Labour relations, Trade Unions, Uncategorized, Workers Rights.
Ireland fails to meet nearly half of its legal obligations on workers’ rights under European human rights law.
Legal conclusions (45-page PDF here) by the European Committee of Social Rights concerning workers’ rights were published by the European Committee last week. The Committee assesses compliance with the Revised European Social Charter.
The findings show Ireland is not in conformity with the human rights requirements on workers’ rights in 10 out of the 22 provisions that Ireland has ratified. Ireland is in conformity with 11 of those provisions, and the government did not provide enough information for the legal situation on the remaining ratified provision on labour rights to be assessed.
The 22 individual provisions are spread across eight articles in the European Social Charter, which is the main sister instrument to the European Convention on Human Rights. The provisions that were examined govern standards in just conditions of work, fair remuneration, workers organising, collective bargaining, worker participation in determining and improving working conditions and working environment, dignity at work, protection of workers’ representatives in their workplaces, and information and consultation in collective redundancy procedures.
Ireland’s minimum wage rates were found to breach European human rights standards because people on the lower bands did not earn enough to have decent standard of living, which is defined as half of the average net wage in the State.
A further illegality was found because the Payment of Wages Act does not place an absolute limit on the total amount of deductions from wages by an employer and because the Government failed to show that the act is applied in practice in a way that preserves workers’ means of subsistence. “Situations in which the portion of wages remaining after deductions may not be adequate to ensure the subsistence of workers and their dependants may consequently still exist”, the Committee found.
The lack of domestic laws requiring overtime work is paid at a higher rate than basic pay was also found to be a breach of the Charter. The Committee was told by the Government that overtime rates are negotiated at the level at which basic pay and conditions of employment are normally settled — meaning in an individual firm or across an industry or sector. No evidence was produced to show how this works in practice, despite the Government being asked to provide the information following a previous assessment of the legal situation in 2007.
Curiously, although the European Committee did refer to the Haddington Road Agreement for the public and civil service in assessing other aspects of the Charter, it did not mention that Haddington Road breached European human rights law on overtime because it required certain categories of worker to provide the first hour of overtime not only without a higher rate of pay, but without any pay. That part of the Haddington Road Agreement expired in 2014.
The European Committee identified three ways in which Irish law on sacking workers breaches human rights requirements. The notice period in the Minimum Notice and Terms of Employment Act are inadequate. The Committee said that this illegality was identified as far back as 1973. It also said that the scope of the illegality on this point has been expanded since Ireland was last assessed because the law on minimum terms was extended to cover civil servants. A third breach was found concerning instant dismissal of a worker for misbehaviour. The European Committee found that the standard that is contained in Irish law is too weak, and that instant dismissal can be justified only in cases of “a serious offence” and not the lower threshold of “misconduct” set out in the Minimum Notice and Terms of Employment Act
In examining the situation here on working time, the European Committee warned the government that contracts where workers must be available for work but are later regarded as resting if they were not actually given work are illegal under human rights law. It asked the government to give the Committee information on the rules that apply to on-call service when Ireland next reports on the right to just conditions of work. However, the Committee did have enough information to find that Ireland’s laws do not conform to the human rights standard on hours of work because it allows workers in the merchant shipping sector to work 72-hour weeks.
A separate breach was identified by the European Committee because there are inadequate safeguards in Ireland to prevent people working for more than twelve consecutive days without a rest period.
A number of Irish rules on trade unions were found to be illegal under the Revised European Social Charter. Although some forms of closed shops have been unconstitutional since the 1960s, the European Committee found that the right to freedom of association was not fully protected because pre-entry closed shops and post-entry closed shops when they apply to newly recruited employees are not definitively illegal.
Irish laws on the licensing of trade unions breach human rights law in a number of ways. The Unfair Dismissals Act is inadequate because does not protect workers from being sacked for trade union activity if the union does not have a negotiating license. Another breach is that under Irish law a trade union that does not have a license — and the union’s officials and members — can be sued by an employer, and an employer can sack all employees in an unlicensed union for taking part in a strike.
The ban on the garda staff associations such as the AGSI and GRA from joining Congress was also found to be a breach of human rights law, re-iterating a finding in 2014 in a case take by the AGSI (42-page PDF here). A number of other specific breaches of human rights law for gardaí from the AGSI case were also found to be still relevant in the new conclusions, including the complete ban on any Garda ever striking.
Although the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 applies to all workers, Ireland does not conform to European legal standards because the government did not show that workers exposed to occupational health risks are entitled to appropriate compensation measures such as reduced working hours or additional holidays.
The conclusions were published last week, some time after the work on drafting them and equivalents for 40 other countries had been completed. In the intervening period, the legal findings of the European Committee for Social Rights were described as “non-binding” by the Minister for Defence in the Dáil. It will be interesting to see if they European Committee responds to that attack when it next publishes conclusions or a decision on a case from Ireland.
The Revised European Social Charter contains 31 articles and under the reporting procedure, the European Committee of Social Rights states’ compliance with approximately a quarter of the articles each year.
Although the 2014 conclusions on labour rights were published by the European Committee last week, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions has not publicly responded to the findings.
The minimum wage January 23, 2015Posted by Tomboktu in Human Rights.
Tags: Minimum wage
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Page 12 of this:
puts item 27 of this:
Or, in reverse order:
From the legislative programme for the Spring/Summer Oireachtas term:
27: Minimum Wage (Amendment) (Low PayCommission) BillTo put in place a body that will make recommendations to the Minister on the appropriate level of the minimum wage andrelated matters
“the situation in Ireland is not in conformity with Article 4§1 of the Charter on the ground that the reduced national minimum wage applicable to adult workers on their first employment or following a course of studies is not sufficient to ensure a decent standard of living.”
The EU Court blocks human rights December 20, 2014Posted by Tomboktu in European Union, Human Rights.
Two days ago, the EU’s Court of Justice delivered a ruling that blocks the EU from signing up to the European Convention on Human Rights.
Technically, the ruling concerns a draft agreement between the EU and the Council of Europe, rather than accession itself, but the commentary by European human rights lawyers in the last two days makes clear that the underlying problem is that the EU’s Court of Justice is not prepared to be subject to the human rights standards set by the European Court of Human Rights.
Two things occur to me.
(1) I haven’t seen anything about this in the Irish media. (They did report a ruling the same day on whether obesity can be a form of disability in certain circumstances, so it’s not that domestic issues took their eyes off the Luxembourg court on Thursday.)
(2) The EU’c court ruling is deeply undemocratic. Whatever your view of the merits of the Lisbon Treaty and the merits of the “vote again” referendum we held in Ireland, the fact is that it was adopted by democratic processes in each of the member states, and requires that the EU accede to the European Convention on Human Rights. It is not for the EU’s judges to create complicated arguments for overturning that decision.
Marriage equality – 85% and complacency September 1, 2014Posted by Tomboktu in Bunreacht na hÉireann, Equality, Human Rights, LGBT, Marriage equality.
In the speeches outside the Department of Justice at the end of the March for Marriage Equality on Sunday week (24 August) Laura Harmon, President of USI, warned against complacency in the referendum campaign next year.
That might seem unnecessarily anxious. Sure, hadn’t the previous week’s Sunday Times’s poll (PDF here) shown that approval of gay relationships has reached 85%, up from 76% in the Sunday Business Post & RTÉ poll in February (PDF here) — heck, at that rate it would reach 94% by next February. If the referendum was passed with that majority, there would be one heck of a party.
RED C, who conducted the February 2014 poll for the Sunday Business Post and RTÉ, reached the same conclusion.
Despite the high figures in the two polls, the ‘no’ side have the easier task in the referendum campaign. The proposal is to change the law, and the pressure will be on the ‘yes’ side to show why that is needed. To win, the ‘no’ campaigners need only cast doubts in enough minds — a constitutional “if it doesn’t fit, you must acquit”. One particular objective will be to dissuade those who are ‘soft’ yes voters from voting that way, whether by voting ‘no’ because of their area of doubt or by staying at home.
Before turning to that RED C analysis, it is important to note that the Behaviour & Attitudes poll for the ST did not ask about support for a constitutional amendment. It asked “Please tell me whether you personally believe that in general it is morally acceptable or morally wrong”. A list of fourteen items was then read to the survey participant, and “gay or lesbian relations” was one of them.
Further, as doctorfive pointed out here a few days ago, polls on abortion referendums have not been an accurate predictor of actual outcome. Add to that the difference between the actual result and the opinion polls in other referendums, such as the recent proposal to abolish the Seanad, and you have to be cautious, if not downright doubtful, about the accuracy of a figure of either 76 or 85 percent support for lifting the ban on same-sex marriage. In fact, the bread-and-butter polling of levels of support for parties is known to be inaccurate, and companies apply techniques to deal with that. Behaviour & Attitudes asks a question in polls on party support about who the survey participant actually voted for in the last election. The company later combines stated level of support for each party with the actual outcome at the previous election to modify the raw data in a poll to generate what it believes is a better measure of the actual current support for each party.
Even without statistical adjustments for accuracy in stated intentions compared with actual behaviour, neither the 85% nor 76% figure is likely to be a realistic indicator of the vote to amend the constitution. Both polls asked a second question, about adoption, which show the folly of relying on the headline figures. Both polls showed lower support for adoption of children by gay couples. But the rights of children with same-sex parents is at the heart of why lifting the ban on same-sex marriage is needed and why civil partnership is inadequate. In light of the lower level of support for gay adoption, campaigners against marriage equality would be stupid not to exploit the concerns that result in lower support for adoption.
The small number of people who will directly benefit from lifting the ban on same-sex marriage is likely to be a factor in how each side campaigns. Some on the ‘no’ side may use the small number of lgb people in the population as a campaigning point. The campaigners of marriage equality will be painfully aware that lgb people will need to rely on the support of hundreds of thousands who have no personal stake in the issue of equality in marriage for same-sex couples.
The polls do give them some information on where the support lies. For example in the Behaviour & Attitudes poll, when broken down by party, opposition to gay adoption is highest among Fianna Fáil voters and those who voted for “independents and others”. And those “might not vote” or “definitely would not vote” show the highest support for the view that gay adoption is morally acceptable. The need to persuade those passive supporters to become active supporters is probably the reason that a coalition of lgb campaigning groups spent the weekend at the Electric Picnic running the Marriage Equality Tent.
Nevertheless, GLEN and Marriage Equality will need something stronger than the promise of a favour if, on a rainy polling day, a 30-something heterosexual parent on the way home from work is to stop off at the polling station if they have two hungry kids in the back who would need to be “unloaded” from the car and “reloaded” so Daddy or Mammy can do their bit for equality. That particular inconvenience may not be the issue, but those kinds of everyday routines will deter many voters who were very certain when the man from RED C or Behaviour & Attitudes asked them the question in that poll they did back in 2014.
The opponents of equality also have the advantage of the experience of battle from running other referendum campaigns. They were not always victorious, but the nitty-gritty of a campaign targetting voters are familiar to them. The lgb organisations, in contrast have never had to rely totally on the public before. In some — but not all — of their successes to date, public opinion has mainly served to show policy makers that there is sufficient demand to justify them paying attention to the issue at hand.
The ‘no’ side has another advantage in the media. Two of its key strategists, David Quinn and Breda O’Brien, are weekly columnists in papers with circulations that are the largest (Quinn) and fourth largest (O’Brien) in the country. While there are columnists in national papers who are supporters of marriage equality, none are at the heart of planning the campaign and able to use their columns to synchronise messages with that campaign. And the opponents of equality have won key battles in how the broadcast media will deal with or be allowed to deal with the debate, with the RTÉ payouts in the “Pantigate” affair and the recent advisory note from the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland following the complaint about the Mooney Show on RTÉ.
On the other hand, GLEN has applied some findings from the polls in its media work. In the last month, it has been the source of news stories on local papers and radio in Sligo and Leitrim, in Donegal and in Kerry on local data on the number of couples who entered civil partnerships in those areas. Them gays are not all up in Dublin, you know.
For the day that is in it May 17, 2014Posted by Tomboktu in Equality, Human Rights, LGBT.
Taken yesterday, in Newry (just outside the bus station).
Sex education in Irish schools March 5, 2014Posted by Tomboktu in Education, Health, Human Rights.
In yesterday’s Irish Times, Jacky Jones uses her column to attack the advocacy of sexual abstinence until marriage as part of Relationships and Sexuality Education in Irish second-level schools. She reminds her readers that “Anyone over 17 years of age, married or single, gay or straight, can choose to have, or not have, consensual sex at any time.”
One of the interesting nuggets she draws attention to is that the Department of Education and Skills cites European human rights law in its 2010 circular to schools reminding them of their obligations (pdf of circular here).
1.5. Access to sexual and health education is an important right for students under the terms of the Article 11.2 of the European Social Charter. The Council of Europe European Committee of Social Rights, which examines complaints regarding breaches of the Charter, has indicated it regards this Article as requiring that health education “be provided throughout the entire period of schooling” and that sexual and reproductive health education is “objective, based on contemporary scientific evidence and does not involve censoring, withholding or intentionally misrepresenting information, for example as regards contraception or different means on maintaining sexual and reproductive health.”
Jones asserts in her article that Catholic schools are not entitled to promote Catholic views on sexuality. I don’t know enough about the rights of a Catholic school to know if that is correct, but there is a further aspect Jones did not mention. The Department of Education circular she quotes from also cites the Education Act:
1.4. Regard must also be had to Section 30 (2) (e) under which a child may not be required to attend instruction in any subject which is contrary to the conscience of the parent of the student, or in the case of a student who has reached 18, the student.
At some stage in the mid 1990s I attended the launch, in the city’s museum, of the Derry Pride Festival. A few of us were amused when some Free Presbyterians showed up outside to protest, singing hymns: a handful of zealots were not a threat. But we were mistaken to see it only as amusing. One of the people at the launch inside the museum was the teenage son of one of the singing protesters outside.
Jones points out in her article that we have no information on whether restrictions on young people’s rights to objective relationships and sexuality education are practised, although I would bet that the Opus Dei school in Dublin does not teach objectively about the role of contraception.
The Education Act was passed in 1998, before the European Committee of Social Rights was asked to rule on the Croatian case that the Department quotes in its 2010 circular. It is time to re-visit Section 30(2)(e) to ensure that it cannot be used by parents to restrict their children’s rights to full RSE education.
Constitutional Convention February 24, 2014Posted by Tomboktu in Bunreacht na hÉireann, Health, Housing, Human Rights, Judiciary, Religion.
It would not be correct ot say that the Convention on the Constitution has been radical, but it has wrapped up its work with its most radical recommendation.
In Ireland, economic, social and cultural (ESC) rights are included in the Constitution merely as “directive principles” for the guidance of the Oireachtas. (The exception is the right to a primary education.) The Constitution states that these rights “shall not be cognisable by any Court under any of the provisions of this Constitution”. [An aside: doesn’t the word ‘cognisable’ sound like street slang for ‘recognisable’? The image of Dev getting down with the lads doesn’t seem right. At all.]
The principles listed under this provision are
- an adequate means of livelihood
- ownership and control of the material resources distributed to best subserve the common good
- the operation of free competition not being allowed so todevelop to the common detriment
- the aim of the control of credit shall be the welfare of the people as a whole
- there may be established on the land in economic security as many families as practicable
- the State whall favour and, where necessary, supplement private initiative in industry and commerce
- private enterprise shall be conducted to ensure reasonable efficiency in the production and distribution of goods and to protect the public against unjust exploitation
- the State safeguarding with especial care the economic interests of the weaker sections of the community
- ensure that the strength and health of workers, men and women, and the tender age of children shall not be abused
Those of us on the Left would hardly think it radical that any of these would move to legal requirements that can be invoked before the courts, and would not be thrilled to see the status of private industry — already sheltered with property rights — re-inforced by being made something judges must take account of in legal decisions.
An overwhelming majority — 85 percent — of the members of the convention voted in favour of the broad proposition that the Constitution should be amended to strengthen the protection of economic, social and cultural rights. A smaller majority — 59 percent — recommended that the Constitution be amended by the insertion of a provision that the State shall progressively realise ESC rights, subject to maximum available resources and that this duty is cognisable by the Courts. This was the strongest of three options the Convention considered for strangthening the status of ESC rights in the Constitution.
However, progressive realisation subject to maximum available resources is not a very strong standard.
It also voted on five possible specific new rights to be named in the Constitution:
- social security
- essential health care
- rights of people with disabilities
- linguistic and cultural rights
In each case, it voted overwhelmlingly in favour of each of these — the least popular was linguistic and cultural rights, with 75 percent support.
It also voted for the “rights covered in the International Covenant on ESC Rights” to be named in the Constitution — this received support from 80 percent of the members of the Convention.
I do not expect this recommendation to go far. The idea that citizens could go to the courts to invoke rights on these matters is simply too alien to our governments, politcal and permanent. Indeed, when an alliance of NGOs first met last year to discuss the idea of asking the Convention to consider the issue, they held a seminar at which the political parties sent representatives to give their views. It was disappointing to hear the party representatives say that constituional protection of ESC rights is not something they support. I hope some them reconsider in lgiht of the numbers from Sunday’s vote.
Marriage Equality — Distracting our attention February 6, 2014Posted by Tomboktu in Crazed nonsense..., Human Rights, Inequality, Irish Politics, LGBT.
Did you see what David Quinn and Senator Rónán Mullen did there?
They’re like bad magicians, trying to distract the audience — in their case from Panti’s critique on RTÉ (transcript here; 3-minute video here) of the ethos of their case against lifting the ban on same-sex marriage.
David Quinn used his column in the Irish Independent on 31 January to ask if we can have a respectful debate on same-sex marriage. He opened his column with extracts from four emails he has received that contained very nasty suggestions about what the sender wanted him to do or to happen to him.
Then on Wednesday of this week, Senator Mullen asked in the Seanad if GLEN (the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network) would disassociate itself from Panti’s statement on RTÉ. (Broadsheet’s 50-second video clip of Senator Mullen’s contribution is here.)
While not explicitly naming David Quinn or his Iona colleagues, Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte was clearly thinking of them when he said, also on 31 January, that those who enter the arena of public debate cannot expect that Queensbury Rules will always apply. Well, the column by David Quinn and speech by Senator Mullen demonstrate they they, at least, do not in fact play by Queensbury Rules.
Private emails with nasty and unpleasant messages are not part of the debate. Nobody is swayed by them. They are, simply, nasty and unpleasant emails to you from individuals who are angry or sad, or both . Putting them in the public domain makes them part of a debate, but not the debate — on whether the ban on same-sex marriage should be lifted.
GLEN, whom Senator Mullen acknowledged is respectful, did not and does not put into the public domain the nasty emails and letters it receives. Neither does Marriage Equality, and neither does BeLonG To, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth service.
There can be times and ways to draw attention to the nasty underside of — to use Minister Rabbitte’s phrase — entering the arena. But when public opinion has lit up in rage that you have received compensation because a drag queen (oh, the irony — a drag queen!) pulls you up on the basic value you espouse in the actual debate, bringing up the work of sad individuals who oppose you serves to distract.
Sadly, the technique adopted by David Quinn and Senator Mullen is not simply an attempt to distract. It is also distinctly cynical and unpleasant: it attempts bring guilt by association to the case for lifting the ban on same-sex marriage.
 If emails go beyond being unpleasant to being genuinely threatening, then the place to bring them is the Gardaí, but in fairness, David Quinn did not suggest any sense of threat to his safety, so it is reasonable to assume that is not relevant to this discussion.
Would you want to set up FairPhone? January 14, 2014Posted by Tomboktu in Choice, Community, Employment Rights, Environment, Ethics, FairPhone, Human Rights, Technology, Workers Rights.
Who in their right mind would want to set up FairPhone? Obviously you can check out their site to find out who actually did set it up as a Dutch social enterprise, but would you want to?
Park, for a moment, the ‘fair’ bit and think about what is involved setting up a company to make a new smartphone. Smartphones are complex products, with chips, capacitors, resistors, glass, sensors, casings, displays, batteries, cameras, speakers, antennae, sockets and other bits and pieces that I don’t know about. And you’d need software. You would also need to design all of this, or get people to do that for you, and to set up or find a factory to make it.
If you did do it, you would be going into a market with big brands like Samsung, iPhone, Sony, Nokia, HTC, and so on, so you would need a pretty strong selling point to attract customers from the products offered by those heavy-hitters.