ICCL has been closely monitoring the restrictions on human rights and fundamental freedoms since the Covid-19 pandemic reached Ireland.
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Week One: 13 – 20 March 2020
On 13 March, the Taoiseach closed schools and advised anyone who could work from home to do so. On 18 March, emergency legislation was rushed through the Oireachtas to deal with the pandemic. ICCL, through media and advocacy work, ensured a sunset clause of 9 November on this unprecedented piece of legislation.
Week Two: 21 – 27 March 2020
On 24 March new measures were announced. People were asked to stay at home except if they were an essential worker. Businesses, sports clubs and religious organisations were all shut. People were asked to limit their close contacts to a handful of people. ICCL welcomed the broad range of supports brought in to support people affected by these restrictions, including the pandemic payment, rent freeze and the ban on evictions.
Week Three: 28 March – 3 April 2020
As the restrictions continued, people were asked to stay at home except to shop for essential items, exercise within 2km of home, or travel to essential work. ICCL continued our call for human rights to form the response to the pandemic. We were particularly loud about the need to protect at-risk communities.
Week Four: 4 – 10 April 2020
This week marked a significant departure in the government response to the pandemic as garda powers of arrest and detention were introduced on 8 April. We called on gardaí to avoid using these draconian powers. We also called for a human rights analysis to determine if these powers were necessary or proportionate.
Week Five: 11 – 17 April 2020
Having originally been introduced for just four days, the garda powers were extended without fanfare. We called for figures on the use of these powers to be published, and used to analyse whether a further extension would be necessary.
Week Six: 18 – 24 April 2020
Difficulties with the garda enforcement powers became more apparent, as protests across the country were met with very different responses from police. This week ICCL launched our call for a Human Rights Impact Assessment to identify the groups most at-risk not just from the pandemic but also from the restrictions and garda powers.
Week Seven: 25 April – 1 May
We wrote to the Garda Commissioner about a number of serious issues we identified, including armed gardaí at checkpoints and introduction of spit hoods. We also joined forces with data protection experts to demand transparency from the HSE on the imminent contact-tracing app.
Week Eight: 2 – 8 May 2020
Reports emerge of people being locked into a Direct Provision centre at Cahersiveen. Garda powers of enforcement are extended without publication. Work continues apace on the HSE’s contact-tracing app, without publication of any data protection assessment.
Week Nine: 9 – 15 May
As the country slowly began to reopen and an Oireachtas Committee was established to look at the response to the pandemic, ICCL kept pressure on regarding garda powers, at-risk groups, and the contact-tracing app.
Week Ten: 16 – 22 May
As renewal of the garda regulations were once again shrouded in secrecy, we called on Minister Harris to show evidence of the necessity, proportionality and legality of the measures, as required by human rights law. We wrote to the Minister separately about the HSE contact tracing app.
Week Eleven: 23 – 29 May
Having never seen any test to show necessity, proportionality or legality of the garda powers, we strengthened our call for them to be ended in phase two of reopening. We monitored the Oireachtas Committee as they discussed nursing homes and Direct Provision. And we asked hard questions about the introduction of mandatory passenger locator forms at points of entry.
Week Twelve: 30 May – 5 June
We published 9 principles that the HSE contact-tracing app must adhere to in order to protect rights. We raised our voice ever louder in calling for an end to garda powers and began to see some real political traction. We supported the leaders of the Black Lives Matter protests when they were threatened with prosecution.
Week Thirteen: 6 – 12 June
Once again under cover of darkness, the new garda regulations were introduced. But this time it was good news! Garda powers of enforcement (arrest) for movement had been removed – something ICCL had been advocating for all along. Worryingly for protesters, it could still be a crime to organise a gathering of more than 15 people.
Week Fourteen: 13 – 19 June
ICCL met with the Minister for Health and raised a number of issues with him, including the contact-tracing app; the need for better data regarding people who are at-risk and consideration of human rights while legislating.
Week Fifteen: 20 – 26 June
Together with Amnesty, we wrote to the Garda Commissioner about spit hoods – again. We hosted a webinar on the contact-tracing app, and welcomed the publication of the app’s DPIA before launching, as we had called for.
Week Sixteen: 27 June – 3 July
ICCL gives the contact-tracing app a C+. We outline our specific concerns about privacy, efficacy, necessity, and proportionality.
Week Seventeen: 4 – 10 July
In the week that the HSE finally launched its contact-tracing app, and it was downloaded by almost a million people, our concerns about privacy and efficacy received extensive media coverage.
Week Eighteen: 11 – 17 July
As mandatory quarantine continues to be discussed, ICCL highlighted the difficulties with such a system from a human rights perspective.
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