Number of people receiving legal support from human rights commission doubles

Number of people receiving legal support from human rights commission doubles

Dr Frank Conaty

More than twice as many people received legal advice or representation from the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) last year than the year before, the rights watchdog has revealed.

The commission concluded legal advice assistance for 25 clients and concluded legal representation assistance in 21 cases involving 41 individual clients last year, according to its 2019 annual report.

This represents a significant increase on 2018, when the commission concluded legal advice assistance for 16 clients and legal representation assistance in nine cases involving 14 individual clients.

The commission also appeared in a number of cases as amicus curiae, the annual report notes. It was involved in eight ongoing cases at the start of the year; five of these concluded in 2019, another is still ongoing, and the other two were awaiting appeal to the Supreme Court by the end of the year.

The commission also sought and was granted liberty to intervene in three further cases during the year, of which two were concluded and the other was awaiting judgment at the end of the year. At the end of the year, the commission was involved in four ongoing cases as amicus curiae.

Launching the report, acting chief commissioner Dr Frank Conaty said: “The response to COVID-19 across Ireland has seen a renewed social solidarity, and a focus on our shared dignity. Human rights and equality must now be used as a clear lens through which we shape and share our national recovery.

“Recent months have shone a spotlight on the vulnerability of people in congregated institutional settings and in the Direct Provision system; challenged the value we place as a society on care and carers; threatened the hard-won independence of people with disabilities, forced us to examine our attitudes to others; and tested our understanding of what is classed as ‘essential’ work and the conditions endured by many in these roles.

“As communities and businesses across Ireland reopen, access to housing for the thousands of individuals and households who are currently homeless will remain an acute human rights issue, as will access to healthcare and the persistent discrimination for some members of our society in access to employment and services.”

He added: “While COVID-19 has highlighted the manner in which existing inequalities expose those impacted to increased risks of discrimination and the undermining of human rights, we must not lose sight of the challenges posed by other fractures in society, not least that posed by persistent racism.

“In taking on these challenges we must be resilient and determined, and use our shared strength to build a better Ireland where we break down barriers to participation and build up the levels of equality for all.”

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