FLAC welcomes Irish acceptance of UN recommendations on civil legal aid

FLAC welcomes Irish acceptance of UN recommendations on civil legal aid

Eilis Barry

Legal rights group FLAC has welcomed the Irish government’s acceptance of four UN recommendations on civil legal aid.

Ireland has accepted over 200 recommendations arising from the UN Human Rights Council’s recent review of Ireland’s human rights record through the universal period review (UPR) mechanism, though has rejected others.

The Department of Justice has committed to reviewing the civil legal aid scheme, though has yet to provide details on the nature, scope or timing of the review, which was originally due to begin in 2020.

Eilis Barry, chief executive of FLAC, said: “The deficiencies in Ireland’s system of civil legal aid have once again been highlighted at an international level.

“However, Ireland’s acceptance of the UPR recommendations in relation to legal aid is to be welcomed, particularly the State’s commitment to a ‘comprehensive and independent’ review of the civil legal aid scheme and to broaden efforts to ensure vulnerable groups can ‘fully access justice’ including in relation to social welfare and equality issues.

“In light of this, it is now incumbent on the Department of Justice to begin the long-awaited review of the civil legal aid scheme and, in doing so, to implement the UPR recommendations, as well as the recommendations of UN Treaty bodies, in relation to legal aid.”

Ms Barry said FLAC is “particularly pleased that the State accepted several recommendations in relation to the rights of Travellers and Roma”, as advocated for by FLAC in its engagement with the UPR process.

“This includes the acceptance of recommendations to improve ‘implementation of laws against discrimination’ and to ‘step up efforts to address homelessness and shortcomings in access to adequate housing, particularly for Travellers and Roma communities’,” she said.

“Again, those recommendations must be urgently implemented in the context of the ongoing review of the Equality Acts, through the adoption of a new national Traveller and Roma inclusion strategy and the forthcoming national action plan against racism.”

Ireland rejected recommendations from four countries calling for the introduction of legislation to prohibit racial profiling and the introduction of an independent complaints mechanism for the investigation of racial profiling, referring to existing non-discrimination policies and the ability to submit individual complaints through GSOC.

Sinéad Lucey, managing solicitor at FLAC, said: “The State’s continued refusal to introduce legislation to prohibit racial profiling flies in the face of our human rights obligations, as well as the rights of Travellers, Roma and minority ethnic and migrant communities who are subject to this insidious form of discrimination.

“The State should urgently reverse its position on these recommendations and agree to introduce legislation to prohibit racial and discriminatory profiling by State bodies, including An Garda Síochána.”

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