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A sequence of State decisions January 23, 2016

Posted by Tomboktu in Housing, Human Rights, Inequality, Ireland, Justice, Travellers.

A pal of mine posted this elsewhere. I think it deserves a wider readership

Spoke with a woman today whose home environment was checked for health and safety concerns.
Her home was taken from her last week because of dangers in the original environment, making her homeless.
Then her social welfare payment was stopped due to no longer been at the registered address.
Then a civil servant suggested she put her child into the fostering system so she could get accommodation.
Then the local services responsible for taking her home locked the doors so she couldn’t make a rehoming appointment.

I mean historically the communities have had issues – but this is really just fucked up.

As a gay man no one expects me to live my life with a woman.
We understand that truth.
We understand that sense of identity.
As a Traveller however there is the expectation to live within the settled structured.
That connection of identity and the need is overridden and cast aside due to expectation.

Many people might not realise it is a privilege to live within their own culturally appropriate structure, as they’ve never had that option denied to them, but really, in this day and age we really could be so much more kind to one another.

70 people made homeless.

Challenging the Marriage Equality Referendum December 4, 2015

Posted by Tomboktu in Judiciary, Justice.
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Gerry Walshe was back in the High Court last week, with a preliminary procedure before an application to the Supreme Court for leave to challenge — again — the result of the marriage equality referendum.

Mr Walshe was one of two men who started legal challenges to the result of the referendum, in accordance the Referendum Act, shortly after the referendum returning officer signed the provisional referendum certificate.

He’ll lose, and I and many others will welcome that outcome. But I think that we should not welcome the process that got us here.

It’s worth summarising the sequence of some of the events in Mr Walshe’s challenge. The broad picture is that Mr Walshe (and another man in a separate case) sought leave to challenge the referendum certificate in the High Court, was denied leave by the High Court, and then appealed to the Court of Appeal, which heard and rejected his appeal on 30 July. (The legal order for the judgement was finalised — ‘perfected’ in legal jargon — the following day, 31 July, completing that court’s task with that case, just in time for its summer break.)

Here the sequence stops being a simple linear narrative. It doesn’t spoil the plot to say that Mr Walshe did lodge an appeal to the Supreme Court, and lost there too.

Pay attention to the dates in following two quotations, which are taken from the Supreme Court’s summary of the sequence of events:

(vi) The applicant filed his application for leave to appeal in the Office of the Supreme Court on the 27th August, 2015, and served it on the respondents on the 27th August, 2015.


(ix) The Referendum Returning officer received written notification from the Master of the High Court on Monday, 24th August, 2015, that no leave was granted by the High Court to present a referendum petition in respect of the Referendum on the Thirty-fourth Amendment of the Constitution (Marriage Equality) Bill 2015.

Here’s the problem both Mr Walshe and the Supreme Court faced: The referendum returning officer received the notification — which in the context of the Referendum Act is effectively an instruction to her to tell the Taoiseach and President to proceed with the final steps in making the amendment to the Constitution — before Mr Walshe lodged his appeal with the Supreme Court.

It is also important to note that Mr Walshe’s application to the Supreme Court was made before the deadline for doing that.

So how did the returning officer get a notification from the High Court before the deadline for Mr Walshe to appeal? The answer is that the Court of Appeal, in addition to rejecting his appeal, also lifted a stay on the referendum certificate being issued.

I think we should be worried at that decision.

Access to our courts — and therefore part of access to justice — is difficult enough. Barriers include the cost of barristers, and the opaque nature of the procedures. (One of the two challenges to the referendum could have fallen even before being heard in the High Court because it was lodged as an application for judicial review rather than as an application for leave under the Referendum Act. When the President of the High Court noted that the application he had before him was incorrect, the barrister for the state essentially forced the High Court to deal with the substantive matter by saying it was not challenging the case on the basis of that error and was happy to let it be treated as a petition application rather than a judicial review application.) Both were wrong in the arguments they made in support of their challenges, ridiculously wrong. But when the rule of law applies, you have a a right to go to court. There are situations when that right might be restricted, but being wrong in your arguments, your understanding of constitutional law or your grasp of the Referendum Act (and the Electoral Act, as it happens with Mr Walsh) are not among them.

Mr Walshe was a ‘lay litigants’, who had found his way through the Referendum Act and the rules of the courts to lodge his challenge. Also, while it might have been justified to deal with his case expeditiously, there was no pressing need to deal with it unduly urgently. (If the issue was urgent, the referendum sould have been held three months earlier in February, or the previous November.) I believe that when the Court of Appeal lifted the stay, it misjudged. It knew that Mr Walshe is not a lawyer, and it knew that the matter could have waited a few more weeks.

Justice would have been better served by allowing Mr Walshe (and the man who took the other case) to plod his way through the processes, without introducing technical hurdles, and have him lose — as he did — in the Supreme Court on the substantive issue that his case was wrong, without opening the question he now raises: that the process of issuing the referendum certificate should not have happened while he was still entitled to challenge it in the Supreme Court.

Boris and the cannnon. June 13, 2014

Posted by Oireachtas Retort in British Politics, Justice.

I get all the implications of Boris’ water cannon. It is deadly serious. A grim prelude to future containment and management of crisis, but another part of me remembers 2011 and the riots.

The response then was hugely significant, unfortunately a lot of it was overshadowed with inevitable questions of ‘why’ and white people waving brooms around Clapham but behind the Hogan Howe dawn-raid photo-ops there were all night courts sittings, industrial style, condemning teenagers to prison in minutes. There was plenty talk of reaching out to communities but some very draconian business went on in the days and months that followed.

Throughout the riots though there were several headlines about the police preparing and ‘ready’ to use plastic-bullets but not a shot was fired. In the end, even the London’s Met decided it was a step too far. I loved the line about consent in the Guardian report shortly after.

What stopped them was not the concerns – considerable as they were – about the repercussions of ending 180 years of policing by consent – but the sheer tactical difficulties of using officers carrying baton rounds against a fast-moving group of rioters. In the beat of a moment the police pulled back.

Smart policing perhaps, we wouldn’t have had a good word to say if they had opened fire but the reluctance mirrored a real and wider sentiment about unprecedented new departures in ol’Blighty. The fighting is traditionally done on someone else’s beaches, dear boy. Out of sight at least.

In twiwbmlt last year, I mentioned a song by Ranking Ann about introduction of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, a response to the Brixton riots two years earlier. We hear a run through her own experience with the police but when it comes outlining new powers, – detention, searches, surveillance and effect on liberties –  she makes specific reference to what they already have in Northern Ireland, they are now bringing in here.

Ireland has a very long history of policing firsts but even knowing this and the reasons, it does feel a bit odd watching reaction to Boris’ new toys while who knows how many well-worked cannon look forward to another long summer in Belfast. London is still different, still centre of empire at heart. Worryingly for other UK residents, where most official trends still begin. While we’re on subject of beaches, Churchill is to feature on the new pound note along side that other famous line – “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat”. Surely another grim prelude for the cannon and all who face it.

McCann Family Press Conference on the HET Report January 31, 2013

Posted by Garibaldy in Justice.
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Full text of the press conference held by the McCann family regarding the release of the HET report into the murder of Joe McCann. Taken from here

Press Conference. Clifton House, Belfast. Jan 29th 2013
Paul –welcome & intro

First family member
On April 15 1972 our father, Joe McCann, was shot dead by members of the Parachute Regiment in Joy St, Belfast at approximately 3pm. Much has been written over the years about the circumstances surrounding his death. Some of what was written was incorrect, some was correct. Today we want to set the record straight.

In the Belfast of the early 1970’s the British Army and RUC made no secret of their intent toward Joe McCann. Death threats were issued on a regular basis through family and friends.

Joe was a member of the Official IRA, an Irish Republican who didn’t have a sectarian bone in his body. He worked within his community with regard to social justice, encouraging people to be active at whatever level they could. He was involved in numerous civil-rights marches, campaigned for better housing and set up co-ops. He drew admiration for his humanity from unexpected sources with Gusty Spence, the U.V.F. leader, paying tribute to him after his murder. He was a loving husband to our mother, Anne and a caring father to the four of us.

For some time we have engaged with the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) with the support of the Pat Finucane Centre. Today we intend to make public the preliminary findings from the HET into the events that occurred that sunny Saturday afternoon in April in the Markets. We still have a number of outstanding issues to be resolved with the HET as we differ on some aspects of the investigation. But where we do agree, is on the main findings in the report surrounding the legality, or not, of the actual shooting.

Second family member
Two plain clothes members of RUC Special Branch in an unmarked car claim to have spotted Joe crossing Cromac Square that afternoon. They then claim that they drove into May St where they encountered a patrol of the Parachute Regiment, 1 Para, at the junction of May St and Joy St. One of the Special Branch officers admits that he then briefed the ‘Para’ patrol that Joe was in the area. The version of events that unfolded – as contained in the statements of the Branch men and the Para’s who opened fire – are totally contradictory and self –serving, in terms of times, distances and whether warning shots were fired.

Policeman B, as he is referred to in the HET report, claims to have stopped Joe at the corner of Little May St and Joy St, to have identified himself as a police officer and to have then told Joe to take his hands out of his pockets. He claims that Joe pushed him away, turned and ran down Joy St. At this point all three soldiers, A, B and C opened fire and Joe fell, having been struck by three high velocity bullets. He was unarmed.

It has not been possible to question the Special Branch version of events because, incredibly, the RUC then and the PSNI now, claim not to be aware of the identities of the two Special Branch officers who were following Joe that day. According to the HET and I quote,
‘The lack of access to their identities has been a major inhibitor in being able to provide a full and comprehensive review of all the circumstances of Joe’s death.’ End quote

In the view of the family, a view shared by the PFC, the refusal of the PSNI even today to divulge the identities of these two officers is shameful and has denied us the right to an Article 2 compliant investigation. We do not accept that their names are not known. Special Branch knows who these two men are.

Third family member
As Áine has pointed out, the statements of the soldiers and the two Special Branch men are contradictory and self-serving. Times, distances and adherence to the ‘yellow card’ rules are all at odds. Nor was any attempt made at the time to investigate these contradictions. Nevertheless the HET has come to very clear conclusions regarding the central issue of the legality of the shooting. I want to quote the HET report on this issue.

“The law dictates that once the defence of self-defence is raised, it is incumbent on the prosecution to rebut it. No attempt was made by investigators to do so despite the fact that there was no doubt that Joe had been unarmed when he was shot and that he had been running away from the police and soldiers”.

“The HET considers that Joe’s actions did not amount to the level of specific threat which could have justified the soldiers opening fire in accordance with the army rules of engagement or their standard operating procedures. This meant that the important issues that required a thorough investigation and examination related to the lawful use of reasonable force, as defined in Section 3, Criminal Law Act 1967. No such investigation took place”. End quote

The shooting of our father was not justified. It was unjustified. David Cameron described the actions of the soldiers of the Parachute Regiment on Bloody Sunday on January 30th 1972 as unjustified and unjustifiable. According to the HET the actions of the soldiers of the Parachute Regiment on April 15th 1972,a mere nine weeks later, were also unjustified.

We have always known this. Now it is the findings of an official report and we welcome that.

Fourth family member
So, the HET found that the soldiers were not justified in opening fire and that Joe posed no threat to them, I quote directly,
‘Joe was not armed and there is no evidence that he was doing anything other than trying to escape when he was shot.’ End quote

In the conclusions the report refers to the army rules of engagement, the yellow card in other words, and their standard operating procedures. This is highly significant.
The HET discovered a document in the archives of the First Battalion, the Parachute Regiment entitled, Standard Operating Procedures for internal security duties in Northern Ireland. This is the first time that the existence of this SOP, has been divulged.

It is significant, not only in Joe’s case, but also in other cases involving members of the First Battalion The Parachute Regiment.

It contains instructions on when soldiers may and may not open fire and I quote,
When not to fire: You may not fire at someone who either;
(A) Does not halt when you challenge him but is not yet causing any danger to anyone’s life or to the place you are guarding.
(B) Runs away when you challenge him or drives away in a car.
End quote

Why then, when it became clear that soldiers A, B and C had violated both the ‘yellow card’ and their own Standard Operating Procedures, was a criminal investigation not carried out as the HET makes clear should have happened?

The HET stated the following,
“The circumstances of the shooting must have been considered contentious at the very least. The full investigation procedure that should have been instigated by the RUC did not materialise and it is the view of the HET that it should have done.”
“The reality is that many important questions remain unanswered despite this review.”

Family member

In summation, the findings of the HET report into Joe’s killing have concluded that;

Ø The Para’s acted unlawfully by contravening not only the Army’s ‘Yellow Card’ rules of engagement but their own ‘Standard Operating Procedures’

Ø The Para’s were unjustified in their use of lethal force, as Joe was unarmed and was running away when shot.

Ø The RUC/SB and the RMP/SIB both failed in their duty to properly investigate the killing.

We will now leave the last word to Mrs Josephine Connolly, her contemporaneous eyewitness report was recorded just after the incident.

We would like to thank Clifton House for facilitating this Press Conference and we would especially like to acknowledge all the help and assistance afforded us by Paul O’Connor and all the staff at the Pat Finucane Centre over the last number of years.

And finally, we would like to thank you all again for taking time to attend.

“I do not have to prove that I am ‘trans enough’ for anyone” December 7, 2012

Posted by Tomboktu in Crazed nonsense..., Human Rights, Inequality, Irish Politics, Justice, LGBT Rights.

While the country was getting ready for the budget on Wednesday, elsewhere in the Leinster House complex, an Oireachtas committee took evidence on the experience and legal situation of trans people in Ireland.

All of it is worth watching, but I was particularly moved by the evidence of Darrn matthews, from 8:30 into the film:

Darrin Matthews:

Hi. My name is Darrin Matthews. I am a board member of TENI and also run he Cork Peer Trans Support Group.

I am a transgender man.


I had a woman from the Disability Allowance Office ring me and she wanted to know why my name had changed from a female name to a male name, and when I told her it was because I was transgender, she laughed at me and hung up the phone.

When I go out and I get asked for my passport as identification to get in, I sometimes get turned away because my gender marker still says “F” and I have both my birth certificate name and my current name Darrin printed.

Everybody has a right to a private life. I would just like that my right would be recognized. Issuing new birth certificates and can easily do this and prevent embarrassment and harassment and potentially dangerous situations.

My experience of being transgender doesn’t just affect me, it also affects my family. I have an amazingly supportive and loving family. My mother put herself into almost €12,000 worth of debt so she could send me to a private school because I was bullied for 2 years in my state school. My mother took out a loan to send me to a school where I could be called Darrin, not wear a girl’s uniform and be happy and every member of staff and every student called me Darrin instead of derogatory and cruel names.

I have many friends who are straight, gay and transgender. In this day and age if a gay friend of mine come to me and told me they had gotten their official diagnosis of “homosexual”, I would be shocked and appalled. Nineteen years ago homosexuality was decriminalized and people now cannot imagine a time when homosexuality was illegal. Most people don’t know that transgender people must be diagnosed with a psychiatric illness to access treatment in this country because this is such an inconceivable and ridiculous notion and is discriminatory in its nature.

I do not feel that because I was born in the wrong body that that automatically means I have a mental illness. There is still stigmatization attached to having a mental health issue in this country and to force a psychiatric condition onto another human being can have detrimental effects on a person’s self-image and self-esteem.

When a couple applies for a civil partnership, they are not asked for their gay diagnosis to prove their homosexuality. I had to prove to many people I was happier as the man I should have always been, to my mother, my siblings, to my friends. And I had to prove that I had a psychiatric illness. But I should not have to prove anything to a complete stranger and seek their acceptance. I do not have to prove that I am ‘trans enough’ for anyone.

My mother once asked if I was sure, and if I was really sure that being Darrin was what I wanted. When I told her I couldn’t go go back and be happy, she just said to me ‘Well then we can only go forward, my son’.

I always knew transitioning would never be easy but please don’t make it any harder than it already is. All I want is to be treated as an equal. To be treated with respect and dignity as much as a non-transgender person would be. Nothing more and nothing less. Thank you.

Tax and income — a detail of our political priorities November 11, 2012

Posted by Tomboktu in Ethics, Ireland, Justice, Taxation Policy.

This morning, I saw the breakningnews.ie story on what I assume is a “Sunday press release” from Mattie McGrath. The answer to a parliamentary question he asked established that 1,700 employees in four Irish banks earn receive more than €100,000 each.

In a moment of (poor-taste) whimsy, I wondered if anybody in IBEC is rewriting Martin Niemöller’s famous poem:

First they came for the top civil servants,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a civil servant.

Then they came for the judges,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a judge.

Then they came for the balied-out bankers,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a balied-out banker.

But I don’t think they need worry. I don’t hear the high earnings in the private sector questioned — whether that is the publicly traded companies whose financial results are public records or the legally private firms (like Dunnes Stores), where all is secret.

What I did hear though, was that on Friday, our good deputies put some time into debating Eoghan Murphy’s Tax Transparency Bill 2012. I am not surprised that the deputies understanding of tax transparency is ineffective and that the Bill is pointless. Real tax transparency would follow the Nordic model, where the amount of tax paid by everybody is a public record.

What should be the Garda priorities? July 4, 2012

Posted by Tomboktu in Crime, Inequality, Justice, Society.

An Garda Síochána is conducting a public consultation as part of its preparation of a three-year strategy for 2013–2015. Have a look at how they frame the discussion with the first question in the consultation [the Gardaí use drop-down boxes with the numbers for ranking, but they don’t transalte to CLR’s website]:

An Garda Síochána has limited resources and is faced with a wide range of demands. In your opinion, what priority should An Garda Síochána give to the following policing areas? (Rank in order of priority – 1 being most important and 10 being least important. Each number can only be used once.)

  • Drugs (including importing, selling and taking drugs)
  • Public Order (for example, tackling drunkenness or rowdiness as well as anti-social behaviour)
  • Hate crimes (for example, targeting someone based on their race or sexuality)
  • Ensuring road safety (for example, preventing serious and fatal collisions, young people racing around in car etc)
  • Violent crimes (such as assaults rape, sexual assaults, and domestic violence)
  • Property crime (such as burglaries, thefts and robberies)
  • Criminal damage (for example, damage against your property, vehicle or graffiti)
  • Fraud (for example, computer and telephone scams or someone else using your identity without your knowledge)
  • Financial crimes committed by those working in businesses and large corporations.
  • Human Trafficking (for purposes of labour or sexual exploitation)
  • Now, even leaving aside the question of precisely how the responses to a public consultation will affect the choices the Gardaí make for priority areas (if, oh, 400,000 responses tell them they should make hate crimes based on race or sexuality the first priority, and the next highest priority is in the 100s of responses, will that put it to the top of the list?), isn’t that opening question just weird?

    Financial crimes presented as a separate category from fraud. And young people racing around in car — is it different when middle-aged people do it? All of the compenents of the drug trade lumped together without distinguishing those with power in the trade from those without. Anti-social behaviour — when it is not a deliberate political action — would seem to me to always be wrong, but drunkeness — if I don’t get rowdy or drive a vehicle — might not be, but the Gardaí have put them in the same category.

    I would like to know how they rank crimes where there are large numbers of potential and articulate “direct” victims (public order and property crime, for example) against crimes where the victims may indirect (the gardaí’s ‘financial crimes’) or smaller in number (hate crimes) or vulnerable (trafficking). And how do you rank any of the crime categories against the more-than-just-crime issue of road safety?

    I live in an area where the Chief Superintendent has gone beyond the legal requirements for county-based Garda Joint Policing Committees and holds quarterly meetings with residents’ associations and other local community groups in each of the areas covered by the individual stations across the Division. And he takes seriously the two questions of listening to concerns raised and reporting back. [Complaints about dangerous parking outside seven schools in the school rush-hours resulted in this response at the following meeting: They had checked the issue at all schools, and in two cases they agreed that the situation was dangerous, but in the others, just an inconvenience for a short period. They met the two school principals, and a letter went out to all parents at the two schools. A week later, some garda shifts were changed to have officers in place at both rush hours — that week, the gardaí spoke to drivers who tried to looked like they intended to park dangerously, told them to move on, and reminded the parents of the letter. The following week, the officers started issuing tickets, and 70 were issued in a month.]

    At one of the meetings last year, the Superintendent presented statistics on garda activity in the station’s area. Among the data on speeding traps set up, speeding offences detected, drunk and disorderly outside pubs, burlaries, damage to property, etc. were two tables on drugs operations. One operation was implemented by the local drugs squad, and targeted local dealers. The other was an operation implemented by ‘beat’ and community gardaí and was targetted at the buyers. Up went a table showing the number of stops and searches in public spaces in the hunt to catch users with stock for their own use. That number over a year was in the high hundreds — I think it was between 700 and 800. But the total number of detections was in two digits. I made myself unpopular with a pair of questions: First, was it an effective use of resurces to stop and search so many people with so little crime detected for it? Second, what mechanisms did they have to ensure that the stops and searches did not work to alienating young men from the disadvantaged estates in the station’s area?

    The current Garda national questionnaire does provide space to expalin your views, although some of the options you get appear to depend on the choices you make in previous questions. It would seem to be a bit difficult, but possible, to use the survey to present the kind of conerns I raised at the meeting. But I am minded to ignore some of the questions and say what I want to say anyway.

    And in fairness, it is refreshing to get the opportunity to say that financial crimes need a bit more profile in the Gardaí’s work, although I am deeply uncomfortable having to rank that ahead or behind concerns like human trafficking or hate crimes.

    If you would like to add your views, mosey on over to http://www.garda.ie/Controller.aspx?Page=9358

    Report on gay and trans people in the asylum process September 8, 2011

    Posted by Tomboktu in Gender Issues, Human Rights, Iran, Ireland, Justice.

    Earlier this week, researchers at the Free University of Amsterdam and COC, a Dutch NGO, published a report (PDF here) on the handling in Europe of asylum claims that are related to sexual orientation or gender identity. The Irish refugess process features in that report, but I have not seen any reports in the mainstream media or Irish blogs that deal with human rights issues of what the researchers had to say about how our officials dela with lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans or intersex people in the asylum system. Below are some extracts from the study.

    Asking for the public’s views on human rights July 4, 2011

    Posted by Tomboktu in Employment Rights, Human Rights, Justice, Rights.

    The Government’s Report on Human Rights for the Universal Periodic Review was published today. It’s a tad long, so I haven’t attempted to read it this evening. (But I am sure that some of the NGOs like the Irish Council for Civil Liberties will scrutinise it so that they can tell the UN’s Human Rights Council if our Government is telling any porkies or making key sins of ommission. And I think it is unusual in that it has been completed on time, which is unusual with Irish Government submissions to human rights monitoring bodies.)

    Published with it are notes from seven public meetings the Department held as part of its consultation procedure before preparing the report. (Not published, peculiarly, are the written submissions the Department received. I hope the Department does publish them, because the data the Department has made available on the great public’s views at the meetings suggests we are a weird lot.)

    It is clear from the notes of the public meetings that they were not particuarly useful in helping the Department of Justice prepare a complete report to the United Nations’ Human Rights Council. And they probably were not meant to be. The vast bulk of the points were on issues the protagonist wants changed or retained. For example, at the Cork meeting, one of the contributions ardued “Section 37 of the Equality and Employment Act should be repealed, as it allows discrimination in the workplace”. I happen to agree with that call (the correct reference is the Employment Equality Act), but I don’t know if there is a basis for claiming that this change needs to be made on foot of Ireland’s commitments under any of the UN human rights conventions it has ratified. There are other reasons for seeking a change to that law, but the meetings were not about those reasons.

    In contrast, one of the labour-rights speakers at the Ballymun meeting knew what the UN’s UPR process was about when they said

    The National Report should acknowledge the damage done to workers in Ireland by the State’s failure to oblige companies to engage with unions.

    And of course, when you see how well the workers’ friend at that meeting understood and invoked the technical detail of the Human Rights Council’s UPR, you immediately see how pointless the process of a domestic consultation by the Department of Justice is — at least when that consultation is held before they have drafted their report.

    it is not just cynics who would hold that Governments — whether of the permanent civil service sort or the temporary political sort — are not in the business of confessing their sins in public, unless it is to mitigate criticism by saying “we will shortly cease sinning (and we’re not all that bad anyway)” (which the State’s report does in the case of the rights of transgender people). But suppose for the moment that the cynics are wrong, that governments are willing to use documents like their submission to the UPR to acknowledge shortcomings. Now ask yourself: how can you best engage the public in a consultation on that process? Well, throwing them a blank sheet of paper, and very technical guidelines is not a way to go. But that is precisely what the Department of Justice did on its website for the UPR. And those Techincal Guidelines the Department referred people to weren’t even written for Ireland. If you plough through them, you find that the relevant standards include

  • Human rights instruments to which the State is party;
  • Voluntary pledges and commitments, including (where relevant) those undertaken when presenting candidature for election to the HRC; and
  • Applicable international humanitarian law
  • Not the kind of items that members of the public are familiar with, I think.

    In the end, somebody was clearly pushing every opportunity to make their case when they raised this point:

    • Closure of fire stations in Offaly

    I suppose that shows that if there are people who are determined to get their issue onto the table, then no amount of proposer briefing and support for a public consultation process will weed out the duds. But it could help the non-expert who is willing to focus correctly if the Department provided guidance intended for the general public.


    On the positive, the views offered did start out well from a Left perspective, with the following point being made at the first Dublin meeting on 16 May:

    Trade unions & right to collective bargaining – 2 speakers said that Ireland is not compliant with international standards in that there is no legislation obliging an employer to engage with trade unions. As a result, companies that engage with unions in other countries do not engage with unions here, because there is no legal compulsion to do so.

    The issue was also raised on 20 May in Kilkenny. On 23 May in Limerick, two speakers expanded with another point about employment rights and who it affects:

  • workers in Ireland are being denied the right to organise and to bargain collectively. Multinationals who engage with trade unions in other countries refuse to do so here because the law does not oblige them to.
  • employment situation in Ireland is deteriorating, especially for vulnerable, migrant workers. Those on work permits are scared to seek membership with unions as their employers could withdraw their work permits.
  • Ireland lags far behind the UK, where workers’ rights are protected by legislation. The problem is not just with multinationals but also domestic companies
  • Whoever spoke on employment rights at the final meeting, in Ballymun on 30 May, seems more familar with human rights law and the UPR procedure.

    • Workers in Ireland are being denied the right to organise and to bargain collectively. Despite having signed up to 6 core human rights treaties, right to collective bargaining elements have not been implemented. Government have failed to secure our rights.
    • The National Report should acknowledge the damage done to workers in Ireland by the State’s failure to oblige companies to engage with unions.


    That first meeting also saw another theme that came up at every meeting, and at length at every meeting:

    Reproductive rights / abortion – conflicting points made

    On that first evening evening in Dublin, the points made were as follows:

  • UN should not enforce laws on member States that are anathema to the people, such as abortion, which is opposed by a majority of the people in Ireland
  • The unborn child should be included in all efforts to protect the right to life
  • Pro-life representatives should be included in all official Government and international discussions and committees concerning the right to life
  • The right to life of the unborn child is protected under Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution. This right should be protected by the State and the UN. Abortion is also prohibited by UN language. (Several speakers).
  • The Irish people do not want abortion. (Several speakers).
  • Ireland needs a deep investigation into the concept of life and when it begins.
  • The UN should lead campaign for a worldwide prohibition of abortion. (Several speakers.)
  • The State should look after rights of the post-born, not just the unborn. It is wrong to dictate to people facing crisis pregnancies.
  • Nothing surprising there, given the strength of feeling on the issue raised. There was one dissenting voice that night:

  • Ireland should provide for increased reproductive justice and offer choice to people, including termination of pregnancy.
  • Some people might winder what exactly lies behind the next point on the abortion issue, made two days later at the public meeting in Athlone:

    Pro-life volunteers are harassed and bullied. Female volunteers have been forcibly removed by Gardaí and detained under the guise of the Public Order Act. When they approached Amnesty Ireland for representation, they were turned down; selective approach to human rights

    It was not until the final meeting, in Ballymun on 30 May that different views on the issue were aired for a second time:

  • We export our difficulties; many women whose lives are in jeopardy from crisis pregnancies are forced to leave the State for support and rely on European Courts. Their rights should be upheld. Irish women should have access to information on abortion.
  • The State should uphold the rights of women to determine what happens with their own bodies. Expressed the view that pro-life groups were influenced by faith in a deity whose existence could not be proven.
  • Lack of abortion rights in Ireland is a human rights abuse.
  • Women’s right to choose needs to be properly acknowledged and taken on board in legislation.
  • Another point was not listed under the heading of abortion but was probably made with abortion in mind was the following:

    NGOs should not be allowed to make submissions to the UN that contradict our Constitution.

    On 27 May, in Cork, the contributions moved onto another plane altogether:

    One speaker spoke of the pro-abortion lobby being funded by US Wiccans, who want the babies for use as sacrifices in satanic ceremonies.

    I presume that this point has not been used for the report to the UN.

    The list of other topics raised is too long to give them all the same treatment:

    • Adopted people
    • Childcare
    • Children’s rights
    • Criminal justice system
    • Rights of people with disabilities
    • Domestic violence against men
    • Domestic violence against women
    • Education
    • Environmental issues
    • Euthanasia
    • Family issues/ Rights of the family (which included some calls for continuing the ban on same-sex marriage)
    • Fathers’ rights
    • Health services for children with disabilities
    • Housing rights
    • Human rights education
    • Human rights infrastructure
    • Judicial system: lack of transparency / bad practice in public life
    • Magdalene Laundries
    • Mental Capacity
    • Mental health services
    • Migrant / asylum issues
    • Misuse of Irish airspace
    • Older people
    • Prisoners’ rights
    • Right to no religion, blasphemy, non-/multi-denominational education
    • Social and economic rights
    • Stalking – protection and awareness
    • Issues relating to dealing with State bodies / legal system
    • Suicide
    • Trafficking
    • Transgender issues
    • Lack of transparency / bad practice in public life : policing and political systems
    • Travellers’ rights
    • Ireland’s relationship with UN and other international agencies
    • Underrepresentation of women in political life

    The Department of Justices’ note-taker put a peculiar heading on the following point:

    Gender and right to privacy issues

  • The State should put in place a national strategy to combat homophobia in conjunction with suicide awareness, focussing on schools.
  • Rosaleen McDonagh for Seanad Éireann March 22, 2011

    Posted by Tomboktu in Feminism, Human Rights, Inequality, Ireland, Justice.

    Here’s who I’ll be using my vote for.

    You too, you can reform the Seanad by giving Rosaleen McDonagh your number one vote. The Seanad needs change not abolition. It needs new voices. It needs diverse voices. It needs to bring forward the diversity of Irish society in a way that is not happening in the Dáil.

    Rosaleen McDonagh is an Independent candidate. She has no familial or political affiliations with politicians or political parties. As a Traveller woman with a disability, Rosaleen is an alternative voice. The call for change, for political reform, comes from the margins of Irish society whose voice is not heard in the sheltered realms of the Oireachtas.

    Rosaleen is running for the Seanad to:

  • Change politics and reform the Seanad by offering a new voice, perspective and analysis,
  • Reinvigorate the debate for economic, social, political and cultural equality in Ireland,
  • Advance Travellers’ rights and secure a new deal for a community that has been confined to the margins of Irish society for generations.
  • Give visibility to issues of human rights in particular for people with disabilities, for women who experience violence, for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people, and for other minority ethnic groups in our society.
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