22 Feb

First anniversary of the Constitutional Convention’s recommendation to protect ESC Rights in the Irish Constitution: will the current or the next Government accept it? ?

ATD with the Irish coalition “ESC Rights Initiative” is calling on the current Government and on the future candidates to 2016 General Election. Who is going to accept the one year old recommendation of the Constitutional Convention to strengthen protection of ESC rights in Ireland? Who will allow the Irish people to decide whether future governments should be obliged to make decisions that prioritise the fundamental dignity of people living within the state?

On 23 February 2014, the Constitutional Convention recommended to the Irish Government, by an overwhelming majority of 85 per cent, that Economic, Social and Cultural Rights be given enhanced protection in the Constitution. One year later the current Government has yet to even respond to the Convention’s recommendation.

There is a growing, worldwide, recognition and acceptance of the need to protect ESC rights like housing, health, education and an adequate standard of living. 133 countries enshrine the right to healthcare and 106 constitutions protect the right to work. Of the 28 EU member states, 26 make some form of constitutional provision for ESC rights. But, Ireland continues to fall behind in protection of these fundamental human rights.

Read Amnesty Ireland Press Release to mark 1st Anniversary of the Irish Constitutionnal Convention Recommandation.

Read comments of the Children Rights’ Alliance published in the Report Card 2015 on the very day of 1st Anniversary of the Irish Constitutionnal Convention Recommandation.

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Speaking before Human Rights’ Day in December 2014, Colm O’Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland, said: “Nothing has been done to incorporate ESC Rights into domestic law therefore fundamental rights like the right to health and housing remain unprotected.”

Noeline Blackwell, Director General of the Free Legal Aid Centre (FLAC), said “From health to housing to water, we can see unprecedented levels of public anger about how state services are being funded and delivered. We believe that inadequate legal protection of ESC rights plays a large part in these problems. Constitutional rights could play a large part in the solutions. Without explicit legal protections, people’s basic human rights on issues like health, housing and education are unlikely to be properly considered in deciding state measures like budget cuts or public charges.”

Fr Peter McVerry, founder of Peter McVerry Trust, said: “If the right to housing were in Irish law, it would enable homeless people to move into their own accommodation much more quickly and free up beds for others living on the streets. We know that providing a legal right to housing will work because the Child Care Act 1991 effectively eliminated homelessness amongst children. I believe that providing such a right to homeless adults in the Constitution would similarly transform the situation for them. Without the right to housing people experiencing homelessness will remain at the mercy of political expediency, where resources will be allocated to issues that are considered a higher priority.”

On the right to health, Cliona Loughnane, Policy and Research Manager at the Irish Heart Foundation, said: “We just need to look at the care people receive after a stroke to see how Ireland is failing to uphold the right to health. In 2014, it is still the case that where a stroke survivor lives will dictate whether they receive rehabilitation after leaving hospital. Without this rehab, a person may be forced to live with avoidable or unduly severe disabilities, or to spend the rest of their lives in a nursing home, far short of the health they could have enjoyed with proper support. Recognition of the right to health in the Constitution would ensure that the State deliver on its obligations for all people, regardless of where they happen to live.”

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The Mercy Law Centre, that assists homeless persons, and Community Law & Mediation, a Law Centre that assists individuals experiencing disadvantage, stated jointly: “In our day-to-day work in the law centres, we see first-hand the effects of the lack of protection of ESC rights in domestic Irish law. Making them enforceable in Irish law would place a fundamentally important floor of rights in place for everyone living in Ireland.”

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The ESC Rights Initiative is a network of organisations and individuals with a shared belief that strengthening the protection of ESC rights would play a fundamental role in the creation of a more just, inclusive and socially sustainable society. Among the members of ESC Rights, you will find: Age Action, Amnesty International Ireland, All Together in Dignity (ATD) Ireland, Children Rights Alliance, Community Action Network, Equality and Rights Alliance, Free Legal Aid Centres (FLAC), Focus Ireland, Irish Heart Foundation, Mercy Law Centre, Community Law and Mediation, Pavee Point, Peter McVerry Trust.