Government gives further evidence to UN rights committee
A delegation from the Government of Ireland is being questioned by the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights over the country’s human rights record.
Minister of State at Department of Foreign Affairs Seán Sherlock is leading the delegation as it gives evidence to the UN for a second day, alongside a number of Irish civil society organisations who are offering an independent view.
Threshold, Atheist Ireland, Amnesty International and Justice for Magdalenes Research (JFMR) are among civic organisations in Geneva with the government delegation.
The UN committee is examining Ireland’s Third Periodic Report under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
Yesterday, UN investigators asked about the impact of austerity, reparations to survivors of Magdalene laundries, direct provision for asylum seekers, and Ireland’s strict abortion laws.
Seán Sherlock told the committee: “Tough choices had to be made by the Government, in the face of an unprecedentedly precarious financial situation.
“We acknowledge that considerable sacrifices were made by the people of Ireland throughout the financial crisis.”
However, he said he believed the impact of the recession was “broadly distributionally neutral”.
He said the ongoing economic recovery would ease pressure on vulnerable people in Ireland and improved social housing provision was a “key priority” for the government.
Emily Logan, chief commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, told the UN committee that she was concerned about the Irish government’s ability to provide for asylum seekers as well as elderly and disabled people.
She cited “direct provision centres for asylum seekers, nursing homes for older people, day and residential services for persons with intellectual disabilities and care services for children - many of which are run on a for-profit basis” as important bodies lacking accountability.
She added: “While Ireland emerged from its agreement with the Troika at the end of 2013, we continue to see the effects of the recession in increased poverty rates for adults and children, high youth unemployment rates and a growth in food poverty.”
Logan has now called for the setting up of a full Oireachtas Parliamentary Committee for Human Rights and Equality to create greater oversight of government decisions.
Dr Katherine O’Donnell from JFMR told the Irish Examiner: ” have very serious concerns about around how austerity has impacted human rights in Ireland, and they’re suggesting ways that the Government ought to have pushed the Troika further on defending human rights issues.
“They’re certainly interested in the issues of abortion, Magdalene issues, and direct provision as key issues that the Government really needs to tackle properly if it’s going to move forward an keep a good record on human rights.”
Noeline Blackwell of Free Legal Advice Centres (FLAC) spoke to the committee and criticised the government for failing to act on the Constitutional Convention’s recommendation last year to incorporate economic, social and cultural rights into the country’s constitution.
The UN committee will conclude its questioning this afternoon.