20 October 2020
The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) has written to all TDs to urge them to oppose the extension of the Emergency Health Legislation without substantial review and debate on Thursday of this week. The legislation, fast tracked in March to urgently respond to the spread of COVID-19, is due to expire on 9 November.
ICCL’s Executive Director Liam Herrick said:
“Back in March ICCL highlighted many areas where this legislation needed to be improved from a human rights perspective. Those improvements weren’t made, that debate hasn’t happened, and there has been no review of the law to ensure it is fit for purpose. All of these things must happen before the legislation is renewed.”
ICCL understands government intends to rush an extension of this legislation through on Thursday evening. This flies in the face of the ‘sunset clause’ protections and a commitment to reviewing the legislation before renewing it — which ICCL and opposition TDs secured back in March. It makes a mockery of our democracy.
ICCL supports the public health effort and accepts that some restrictions on our rights are necessary in order to protect health and save lives. But government must use these powers in a manner that complies with Ireland’s human rights legal obligations. This means all decisions made to restrict our rights must be clearly necessary, as minimal as possible to protect public health and taken in a democratically robust manner – with transparency, consultation, and clear communication with the public.
In March, many members of the Oireachtas in both the Dáil and Seanad supported our suggestions for improving this legislation but did not push the amendments because of the perceived urgency of the situation. This must not be allowed to happen again.
Mr Herrick continued
“Steamrolling an extension through the Oireachtas without reflection, scrutiny or debate is an affront to our basic democratic procedures and to the duty of our elected representatives to debate our laws. With legislation that creates such extraordinary powers for Ministers with such significant impact on our rights, these democratic processes take on an even greater importance.”
The legislation gives wide ranging powers to the Minister for Health to make regulations restricting our rights. That includes our rights to move freely, our rights to meet with others, and to enjoy a private and family life, to organise events, and to earn a livelihood. The Minister for Health has used these extraordinary powers to restrict our rights on numerous occasions since March. On each occasion, ICCL has called for greater transparency in decision making, more consultation and prior approval from the Oireachtas. ICCL firmly believes these processes can and must be improved.
Notes for editors:
Find the full letter to TDs here: https://www.iccl.ie/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/201020-ICCL-urges-TDs-to-oppose-steamrolling-emergency-legislation.pdf
Find ICCL’s original submission on the emergency legislation here: https://www.iccl.ie/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/ICCL-analysis-emergency-COVID19-legislation.pdf
The Irish Council for Civil Liberties is Ireland’s oldest independent human rights monitoring organisation. We monitor, educate and campaign for all human rights for everyone.
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