Shatter long on promises, short on detail at Ireland’s UN Rights Review

‘Your Rights Right Now’ Press release – for immediate release

Dublin and Geneva, 6 October 2011

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter TD today answered a series of tough questions on the State’s human rights record from UN member states as Ireland submitted to its first-ever  ‘Universal Periodic Review’ at the UN’s Geneva HQ. Reflecting the intense lobbying campaign by the Your Rights, Right Now campaign, the questions put to Government focused on the critical human rights issues  facing the country.
Minister Shatter made a number of positive statements, including:

•    Confirmation that a referendum on children’s rights would be held early next year in order to bring Ireland into line with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
•    A commitment to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which would allow individuals to complain about alleged violations of these rights at the international level.
•    An acknowledgement of the urgent need to modernise our mental capacity legislation in order to protect vulnerable people, and to allow Ireland to ratify the UN Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

However the Minister was short on detail when it came to a number of urgent and long-standing gaps in human rights protection in this country. For example:

•    The Minister noted that the Government is preparing legislation to enable it to ratify the Optional Protocol under the UN Convention against Torture. This is an important step, requiring the establishment of a national body to monitor places of detention. However, the Minister declined to describe the substance of that legislation or to give any timeline for its implementation.   
•    Several delegations asked the Government to provide information on when it will introduce legislation to implement the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in the A, B and C v Ireland case, in order to clarify the circumstances in which abortion may be lawful. The Minister avoided making any commitments beyond noting that an Expert Group would be established to make recommendations – a response that has widely been criticized by Irish civil society groups as an attempt to place the implementation of the judgment on the long finger.
•    The ongoing practice of detaining children in St Patrick’s institution was not addressed by the Minister.

Speaking from Geneva today on behalf of Your Rights Right Now, ICCL Director Mark Kelly said:

"Minister Shatter gave a smooth performance today and appeared to be sincere in his intentions to improve the protection of human rights in Ireland.  However, he was long on promises and short on detail, even when pressed by other United Nations member States to outline the Government's precise plans on a wide range of issues.  Simply ratifying additional UN treaties will not, in itself, improve the situation for vulnerable people whose rights are not being respected."
 
"Today's hearing provided clear evidence of an international consensus that Ireland must improve its human rights performance.  Concrete action will be required to make good on the promises made by Alan Shatter today and we will be closely monitoring the Government's progress between now and its next appointment with the UPR review process in March 2012."

For further information, see the note below, and/or contact:

Walter Jayawardene
Communications Manager
Irish Council for Civil Liberties
9-13 Blackhall Place
Dublin 7
Ireland

Tel. + 353 1 799 4503
Mob: +353 87 9981574   
walter.jayawardene@iccl.ie
 
Press contacts for other civil society organisations in the ‘Your Rights Right Now’ coalition are listed below.

NOTES TO BROADCASTERS AND JOURNALISTS:

What is Ireland’s ‘UPR’ on  6.10.11?

The 6th October 2011 is a big day for Ireland, marking the first time that Ireland will go under the spotlight of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva as part of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Process.  The Universal Periodic Review is a process through which the human rights records of the United Nations' 192 Member States are reviewed and assessed every four years, and this October it’s Ireland’s turn. This process is also a genuine opportunity for people in Ireland to highlight important human rights issues facing the country, and encourage Ireland to promise to address these issues in front of an audience of its international peers.

Notes on the Geneva Hearing

•    Ireland’s hearing under the UN Universal Periodic Review took place in the Palais des Nations in Geneva today (6.10.11) between 8am and 11am Irish time. The Irish Government Delegation was led by Minister for Justice Alan Shatter. The hearing was streamed live via the ‘Your Rights Right Now’ campaign website at www.rightsnow.ie, and via the UN at http://www.unmultimedia.org/tv/webcast/c/12th-upr-2011.html. You can watch footage of the hearing, split into bite size segments separated by State, at: http://www.unmultimedia.org/tv/webcast/c/universal-periodic-review.html

•    Advance questions submitted by a number of European Union states can be read in full online at: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/PAGES/IESession12.aspx. The Minister’s Opening address to the UN Human Rights Council can be read on the Department of Justice and Equality website here: http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/SP11000187.

•    Approximately 48 questions were put to the Minister. Some of the most commonly occurring topics were:

o    Children’s rights
o    Access to abortion and the ABC Judgment
o    Prison violence, overcrowding and sanitation
o    Travellers’ rights

•    A full transcript of the hearing is not yet available, however the ‘Your Rights Right Now’ campaign, and its colleagues, live tweeted proceedings. Please search the #UPRIRL hashtag on twitter for an accurate timeline of questions put to the Minister, state by state.

•    What’s next? On Monday 11 October at 11am the UN Human Rights Council will adopt its ‘Outcome Report’ on Ireland. This contains a summary of what was discussed at the hearing and a list of recommendations for Ireland.  This will be formally adopted at a hearing in March 2012, where Ireland, The UN Human Rights Council, and NGOs will be able to discuss the report and Ireland’s human rights obligations. Once formally adopted, the report is the basis on which Ireland’s human rights performance will be measured for the coming four years, and serves as a key tool for advancing reform.

•    For journalists in Geneva, the ‘Your Rights. Right Now’ campaign has a number of representatives available in Geneva to provide comment and analysis on the proceedings. Please contact Walter Jayawardene at the above details to arrange an interview in or from Geneva. There will also be a human interest element to the ‘Your Rights. Right Now’ campaign presence in Geneva - a number of rights holders who have faced their own human rights challenges in Ireland travelled to Geneva to witness the hearing first-hand. These include a family campaigning for mental capacity legislation reform, representatives from Older and Bolder, Ms Lauren Donovan, a student at Youthreach Sherrard Street who won the ‘Your Rights. Right Now’/ Youthreach human rights competition we co-organised with the Youthreach Programme and who will be travelling as part of her prize.

Notes on activities in Dublin, Cork and Limerick

•    The ‘Your Rights Right Now’ campaign held a breakfast screening of the UPR hearing live from Geneva on the morning of 6th October 2011 from 8am in the Connolly Room, Liberty Hall, Dublin 1.  There was a strong and vibrant turnout of over 50 civil society representatives who engaged actively with the hearing in person and via Twitter. Photographs are available on the ‘Your Rights Right Now’ facebook page www.facebook.com/YourRightsRightNow

•    Parallel events also took place at the same date and time in:

o    Limerick – Best Western Perys Hotel Glentworth Street, Limerick. Guest Speaker: Dr Edel Hughes, School of Law, University Limerick. For more information Contact Siobhan on s.oconnor@dorasluimni.org or 061310328
o    Cork - NASC, 35 Mary Street Cork. For more information contact clairemccarthy@nasc.ie or 021431 7411
Photos:

•    High resolution photos from the Your Rights Right Now campaign so far, including dramatic shots of our campaign branding on Liberty Hall, can be accessed at http://www.flickr.com/photos/yourrightsrightnow/. There is no reproduction fee.


The ‘Your Rights. Right Now’ Coalition is made up of: Children’s Rights Alliance; Disability Federation of Ireland; Dóchas; Educate Together; Free Legal Advice Centres; Immigrant Council of Ireland; Irish Congress of Trade Unions; Irish Council for Civil Liberties; Irish Family Planning Association  ; Irish Penal Reform Trust; Irish Senior Citizens Parliament; Irish Traveller Movement; National Women's Council of Ireland; Simon Communities of Ireland; The Integration Centre; Transgender Equality Network; Union of Students in Ireland

The following are available for comment:

Children’s Rights Alliance (childrens’ rights, child protection, Ryan report): Carys Thomas, Communications Director: Mobile:  +353 87 7702845 carys@childrensrights.ie

Dóchas (International Development): Holy Ramanankasina, Information Officer: 01 4853414 holy@dochas.ie

Free Legal Advice Centres (transgender rights, access to justice, human rights and poverty): Yvonne Woods, Communications and Information officer: 0872309227 yvonne.woods@flac.ie

Immigrant Council of Ireland (immigration, racism): Martina Quinn / Lydia Ishak, DHR Communications, Tel: 01-4200580 / 087-6522033 / 086-3868615

Irish Congress of Trade Unions: Macdara Doyle, Communications Officer: macdara.doyle@ictu.ie

Irish Council for Civil Liberties (fair trial rights, equality): See Walter Jayawardene, details above

Irish Family Planning Association (reproductive rights): Fiona Tyrrell, IFPA Communications Officer, 01 607 4456 or 086 7952167 fiona@ifpa.ie

Irish Penal Reform Trust (prisoners’ rights, prison conditions, juvenile detention conditions): Fíona Ní Chinnéide, Campaigns & Communications Officer: 087 181 2990 communications@iprt.ie   

Irish Traveller Movement (Traveller rights, recognition of Traveller ethnicity): Jacinta Brack Public Relations Coordinator 087 27 44 791 publicrelationsitm@gmail.com
The Integration Centre: Helena Clarke helena.clarke@integrationcentre.ie 01-6453070

Transgender Equality Network Ireland: Broden Giambrone: 01 8733575 director@teni.ie

National Women’s Council of Ireland: Rachel Doyle, 0872998619 racheld@nwci.ie; Jacqueline Healy 0858586476

Also, Older and Bolder will be accompanying ‘Your Rights Right Now’ to Geneva. Media contact: Roisin Boyd, m: +353 87 7989 139, roisin.boyd@ireland.com/ Pat Montague 087 2549123.

The ‘Your Rights. Right Now’ Campaign www.rightsnow.ie

The ICCL, as part of a coalition of 17 civil society organisations (see the website for full list) in Ireland called ‘Your Rights. Right Now’, has been working throughout 2011 to ensure that the voice of ordinary people across Ireland is heard and reported to the UN as part of this high-profile event on the international stage.

In February and March 2011, the Your Rights Right Now Campaign Team conducted seventeen consultation and public information events throughout the country. The team visited locations including Cork, Donegal, Dublin, Dundalk, Galway, Limerick, and Waterford in order to ensure the widest possible participation.

These meetings covered a broad range of human rights issues with a focus on local concerns, and were attended by interested members of the public and representatives from a diverse range of special interest groups including local community organisations, women's groups, refugees, LGBT people, young people, trade unionists, people with disabilities, older people and many others. The meetings offered members of the public to give voice to their concerns about human rights in Ireland.

The process culminated in a report covering a range of human rights issues of concern to Irish civil society, which was sent the UN on 21 March 2011 and was officially launched on 19 April 2011 by Kathleen Lynch TD, the Minister of State with Special Responsibility for Disability, Equality, Mental Health and Older People. This report provided crucial information to the UN Universal Periodic Review of Ireland, whose compiled Stakeholder Report makes specific reference to the Your Rights Right Now submission 30 times in the 11 page report and 52 times in 167 footnotes.

The past two weeks has seen the campaign raising public awareness of the UPR, and of Ireland’s examination in Geneva on 6.10.11, including the launch of a national poster campaign and the unfurling of a 20 metre high banner on Dublin’s Liberty Hall.


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