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Human Rights in Ireland
www.humanrights.ie

offsite link End Direct Provision: #DirectProvision15 Wed Mar 25, 2015 10:16 | GuestPost

offsite link Guest Post: 20 years after Beijing: let?s take a few steps back. Fri Mar 20, 2015 08:13 | GuestPost

offsite link Socio-Economic Rights, the Constitution and the ECHR Act 2003: O?Donnell v South Dublin County Counc... Mon Mar 16, 2015 10:53 | Liam Thornton

offsite link Final Workshop in the Northern/Irish Feminist Judgments Project. Mon Mar 16, 2015 09:35 | admin

offsite link 20 Years after Beijing: Taking a few steps back? Wed Mar 11, 2015 11:10 | Aoife O'Donoghue

Human Rights in Ireland >>

Cedar Lounge
For lefties too stubborn to quit

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offsite link Blaney 1973 Fanad and Kerrykeel 09:24 Fri Mar 27, 2015 | irishelectionliterature

offsite link This Week At Irish Election Literature 06:15 Fri Mar 27, 2015 | irishelectionliterature

Cedar Lounge >>

Dublin Opinion
Life should be full of strangeness, like a rich painting

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Dublin Opinion >>

NAMA Wine Lake

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GuestPost - Wed Mar 25, 2015 10:16
Caroline Reid is the Communications Officer, Irish Refugee Council. Liam Thornton is a lecturer in law in UCD.  On April 10th 2015, direct provision will be 15 years in existence. To mark this, Human Rights in Ireland will dedicate one week to contributions on the direct provision system: its impact on people, their physical and mental(...)

DP15_logoCaroline Reid is the Communications Officer, Irish Refugee Council. Liam Thornton is a lecturer in law in UCD

On April 10th 2015, direct provision will be 15 years in existence. To mark this, Human Rights in Ireland will dedicate one week to contributions on the direct provision system: its impact on people, their physical and mental health, the politics of direct provision, art, pain, human rights, asylum processes and the role of law in fostering exclusion and debasement of human beings.

Over the last number of years, we have had a number of such events, and it has contained a mix of different contributors. Expanding on last year?s 14 hour Blogathon, this year we are calling for submissions in whatever medium you chose. Be it a blog, a poem, a photo, a quote, a video, a sound bite, a link to relevant content, a drawing, or a message of solidarity. We will also use this space to reflect on the abundance of material and resources already out there. 15 years of material and resources, headlines and reports, projects and political engagement.  In light of this, we are also calling on you to submit any items that you may know of that you think should be included in this space.

This call out is open to everyone, but in particular those who have been directly impacted by the system that has become known as Direct Provision. If you want to submit something for this week of online activity then please do the following:

  1. If you are interested in contributing a blog post or a tumblr post., you should email enddirectprovision@gmail.com
  2. Materials should be forwarded by Friday 3rdApril  at 12 noon (late arrivals can?t be guaranteed to go live but we will try our best!).  The material must relate to the direct provision system, it may simply be your thoughts or reflections.
  3. If it is a more traditional blog post, then the shorter, the better! Try not to go over 700 words.
  4. A number of organisations and individuals have already been invited to contribute, with the growing support for an end to Direct Provision this is an excellent opportunity for you to demonstrate your support for this call and to show that you stand in solidarity with the people failed by this inhumane system.

 

For those not wishing to submit a blog post, but wishing to other wise engage, please let others who may be interested know about this blogathon:

 

  1. Call your local TD (or their office) and let  them know about direct provision, ask your TD what they are doing on your behalf to highlight the failure of the direct provision system. You can find contact details here.
  2. Write or email your local TD on 10 April 2015 asking them what they are doing to bring an end to the direct provision system (email addresses available here).
  3. On Twitter, use the hashtag #directprovision15 , please share posts, engage in debate and discussion, raise awareness with friends, family and colleagues
  4. All of the submissions will be available on www.humanrights.ie or on the special Tumblr page set up to mark 15 years of direct provision

Please share this information on your own Facebook/Twitter/Tumblr page and aim for a Twitter storm with the hashtag #directprovision15.

GuestPost - Fri Mar 20, 2015 08:13
We are pleased to welcome this guest post from Leonard Taylor, who is a PhD candidate at the Irish Centre for Human Rights, NUI Galway. His research topic is on Catholicism and human rights.  You can contact him l.taylor3[at]nuigalway.ie  This post is in response to Aoife O?Donoghue?s article [20 Years after Beijing: Taking a few steps(...)

We are pleased to welcome this guest post from Leonard Taylor, who is a PhD candidate at the Irish Centre for Human Rights, NUI Galway. His research topic is on Catholicism and human rights.  You can contact him l.taylor3[at]nuigalway.ie 

This post is in response to Aoife O?Donoghue?s article [20 Years after Beijing: Taking a few steps back? Mar 11, 2015].

The number of people identifying as Catholic leaped from an estimated 291 million in 1910 to nearly 1.1 billion as of 2010 [link]. The Catholic Church sees itself as a necessary actor in the political sphere [Gaudium et Spes § 76]. Certainly, interest in the activity of Catholicism as a global actor has peaked in part response to a time we identify with a resurgence of religion. Understanding some of the history of women in Catholicism that goes beyond the basic binary opposition is important particularly where there is a view of the Holy See (and Catholic Church) as, as Aoife O?Donoghue remark in her recent post, ?a powerful voice against women?s substantive equality when it is completely dominated by one sex and one view of the role of women should be a serious issue for the UN?. It would appear to highlight and identify the Holy See as problematic or creating rollback for women?s rights with singular responsibility for the watering down of the UN Commission on the Status of Women Declaration but this tends to blur the broader picture of the relationship between women?s rights and Catholicism.

  1. Early Catholic Women?s movement in the International arena

Post World War I was a significant juncture for the women?s movement in the Catholic Church [[1]]. English Catholic women reported Pope Benedict XV?s approval of the Suffragism at an audience with him in 1919.   Latter the French feminist Simone de Beauvoir attributed to this event ?the birth of Christian feminism?. New Catholic women?s organisations focused on international law and social activism in the International arena and began to emerge as early as 1906 [link]. It has been asserts that such organisations ?played a part in campaigning for reforms which would enhance the lives of women at this time, particularly women working within the home? [[2]]. During the 1920?s and 1930?s Catholic women?s organisations in the International arena actively worked for ?better housing, the payment of family allowances to mothers and access to free health care and full pension rights for married women?. However, tensions emerged even at this early phase over moral issues such as divorce, birth control and abortion, issues that continue to divide women inside and outside the Catholic church to this present day. However these organisations were active at the League of Nations addressing issues such as ?Traffic of Women? and ?Protection of the Child (including young girls)? (1928). The presence of Catholic Women?s NGO?s continued with the formation of the United Nations [[3]]. With Observer Status they attended the establishment and spoke at several conferences of the Inter-American Commission of Women and in particular, the creation of the Commission on the Status of Women (1946), to which they continue to contribute [[4]]. This advocacy continued and remains active at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women through a variety of Catholic NGO?s which span the feminist ideological spectrum but was also taken up by the Holy See [[5]].

  1. Commission on the Status of Women

At this international level, the Holy See attended the Fourth World Conference on Women: Action for Equality, Development and Peace convened by the United Nations on 4?15 September 1995 in Beijing, China. The Holy See was represented by the legal academic Mary Ann Glendon with two monsignors as deputies, and thirteen women and seven men also as part of the delegation [[6]].   Prior to the Conference Pope John Paul II addressed a letter to Gerturde Mongella Secretary General of the World Conference stating,

?there is an urgent need to achieve real equality in every area: equal pay for equal work, protection for working mothers, fairness in career advancements, equality of spouses with regard to family rights and the recognition of everything that is part of the rights and duties of citizens in a democratic State. This is a matter of justice but also of necessity? [See link § 4].

As one catholic feminist theologian noted, the language of the Pope could have come directly from the writings of feminist theologians [[7]]. The fault lines did not fall on these issues in particular but on sexual and reproductive rights, issues which have been debated since the formation of Commission on the Status of Women, and which are not new concerns or indeed unique to the activity of the Commission. There is, as the letter from John Paul II indicates, more common ground than issues which divide and include economic justice for women. Undoubtedly those concerns which divide are intrinsic to feminist concerns both inside out outside of Catholicism but should not cloud common ground where it is to be discovered. Finding that common ground, across multiple cultures and traditions seems difficult if only one interpretation takes the foreground. But where do we find that engagement?

  1. International Women?s day 2015

The issues and tasks which challenge women?s rights can be seen in a different way. Two examples point to a more successful engagement between feminism and Catholicism.   Firstly, this was briefly remarked on by Lakshmi Puri, Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations and Deputy Executive Director of UN Women. Speaking in Dublin, Ireland at a conference to mark the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action on 20th Feb 2015, Puri stated: “We need to engage youth, men and boys, faith based organizations, media, to all become levers of change”. Suggesting faith based organisations are “levers for change” for gender equality was a noteworthy remark but also her later suggestion of creating a new theology for feminism, which engages with religion more pro-actively than feminism has done before.

The Catholic theologian Tina Beattie has looked for a new vocabulary in Catholicism and natural law, restructured by feminism, in defence of human rights. She not only challenges Catholicism to take feminist insight seriously but similarly challenges the feminist movement to respond to the possibilities of religion and examine the presuppositions, particularly those rooted in Enlightenment rationalism, as problematic for women. She therefore asks,

what is at stake for women in this forgetting of another world? Is feminism too short-sighted in its understanding of the human, and might a more far-sighted engagement with alternative traditions to that of post-Enlightenment secularism yield richer fruits for feminist refigurations of politics, law and ethics? [[8]]

Similarly but less publicised but possibly as important was the celebration of International Women?s Day at the Vatican at Casina Pio IV on March 8, called Voices of Faith [website] and focused on two topics: women in society ? the excluded, the marginalized, and women in the Church. What stood out was not only the realisation of a conference on the theme of women in the Catholic Church but also the presence of feminist theologians who spoke there [New York Times article; America Magazine here]. Some of these speakers are considered radical Catholic feminists and their presence indicated a move to a dialogue that might be imagined [see also report by Christine Schenk].

The importance of a constructive open engagement between feminism and religion has also been highlighted by the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Heiner Bielefeldt. The role of women in various religious communities who provide a critique of the practices of their religion ?includes the right of internal dissidents, including women, to come up with alternative views, provide new readings of religious sources and try to exercise influence on a community?s religious self-understanding, which may change over time? (Interim report 2013 § 60) [PDF]. More recently Bielefeldt addressed interreligious dialogue and requested there ought to be a ?broad representation, including gender balance and participation of different generations…? He continued:

There is much space for improvements in this regard, since women, including feminist theologians, are typically very underrepresented in interreligious dialogue initiatives. Their voices are sadly absent in many projects. The roles of women human rights defenders should also be promoted as they can contribute to a less patriarchal interpretation of religions that disproportionately affect the rights of women, girls and LGBT persons (Annual Report 2015 § 67).

  1. Conclusion

The challenge to take a few steps back to facilitate dialogue between feminism and religion is a two way street, one to be taken up both by feminists as well as the Catholic church. However, the bridge between religion and law, particularly human rights law is difficult to traverse. There remains a perception that only tightly defined boundaries which contain positions of concern to particular formations of feminism exist only to define insiders and outsiders. Religion can be similarly constructed. That narrative, just as it has shaped previous engagements such as the Beijing Conference seems inevitably to mark future ones, but it could be different. Instead of creating a climate of suspicion, one to facilitate dialogue and exchange can occur, when a more completed history is articulated, in the service of the rights of all women.

[1] Steven C. Hause and Anne R. Kenney, ‘The Development of the Catholic Women’s Suffrage Movement in France, 1896-1922′, The Catholic Historical Review, 67/1 (11-30.27). See also Francis M. Mason, ‘The Newer Eve: The Catholic Women’s Suffrage Society in England, 1911-1923′, ibid.72/4 (1986), 620-38.

[2] Caitriona Beaumont, ‘Moral Dilemmas and Women?s Rights: The Attitude of the Mothers? Union and Catholic Women?s League to Divorce, Birth Control and Abortion in England, 1928?1939′, Women’s History Review, 16/4 (2007/09/01 2007), 463-85. 464.

[3] Joseph S. Rossi, ‘”The Status of Women”: Two American Catholic Women at the UN, 1947-1972′, The Catholic Historical Review, 93/2 (300).

[4] Joseph S. Rossi S.J., Unchartered Territory. The American Catholic Church at the United Nations, 1946-1972 (Washington: Catholic University Press, 2006). 173-200.

[5] See further an anthology of interventions on various issues, Andre Dupuy, Words That Matter: The Holy See in Multilateral Diplomacy, Anthology (1970-2000) (New York: The Path to Peace Foundation, 2003).

[6] L?Osservatore Romano Italian edition, 26 August 1995, p.1. See also Declaration and Platform for Action, Beijing (1995) UN Doc A/Conf. 177/ 20 para 213.

[7] Tina Beattie, ‘Whose Rights, Which Rights? ? the United Nations, the Vatican, Gender and Sexual and Reproductive Rights’, The Heythrop Journal, 55/6 (2014), 1080-90. 1083.

[8] Tina Beattie, ‘”Justice Enacted Not These Human Laws” (Antigone): Religion, Natural Law and Women’s Rights’, Religion and Human Rights, 3 (249-67. 261.

Liam Thornton - Mon Mar 16, 2015 10:53
This note is based on MacMenamin J.?s decision, available here. SCOIRL have a succinct post on the outcome in this case. A decision was also given by McKechnie J, and is not yet available. However, I understand that McKechnie J. came to the same conclusion, albeit for different reasons. With thanks to Patricia Brazil for(...)

Supreme CourtThis note is based on MacMenamin J.?s decision, available here. SCOIRL have a succinct post on the outcome in this case. A decision was also given by McKechnie J, and is not yet available. However, I understand that McKechnie J. came to the same conclusion, albeit for different reasons. With thanks to Patricia Brazil for providing me with a copy of the available decision. As this is a longer post that usual, you can find a copy of this post here.

The Context

On Friday, 13 March 2015, the Supreme Court gave an important decision in the case of O?Donnell v South Dublin County Council (not yet on courts.ie, Irish Times report here). The case revolved around the statutory duties upon South Dublin County Council (SDCC) in the area of housing and Traveller accommodation. The High Court, in a number of cases: Doherty v SDCC (2007), O?Donnell v SDCC (2007) (Laffoy J.) and O?Donnell v SDCC (2008) (Edwards J) (discussed here, pp 13-14), considered the duties of local authorities under Irish housing law and the impact of the ECHR Act 2003. The Irish Supreme Court have been exceptionally conservative when it has come to interpreting the Constitution as providing any form of socio-economic rights duties on the State.

The European Court of Human Rights has been reluctant to interfere with decisions of state/local housing authorities in the housing law arena. The ECtHR has stated that Article 3 and Article 8 ECHR cannot be interpreted as providing a duty on the State to provide everybody with a home, unless there are very exceptional circumstances at play (see, M.S.S. v Belgium and Greece, discussed in detail here).

The decision on Friday, 13 March 2015 in O?Donnell v South Dublin County Council provides at least a signal, that in very exceptional circumstances, legislative duties coupled with constitutional/ECHR rights may protect socio-economic rights. However, as will become clear below, the decision has not resulted in the provision of accommodation to Ellen (or other members of the O?Donnell family) and Ellen continues to live in accommodation that is inhuman and degrading.

Facts

Ellen, now an adult, is living in caravan accommodation that is unfit for human habitation. Ellen has cerebral palsy and is confined to a wheel chair. In 1994, the family were provided with bricks and mortar accommodation by the Council, but only remained in this accommodation for one month as Ellen?s dad, felt unable to live in settled accommodation. Between 1994 and 2003, the O?Donnell family were provided with serviced halting site accommodation. In 2001, the Council spent ?5,625 surfacing a halting site area so that Ellen?s wheelchair in St. Melruan?s Halting Site . The family left this halting site after bereavement. In 2003, SDCC made a disability grant of ?47,000 in order to fund the purchase of two second hand caravans, one of which was disability accessible. A disability ramp, in order to facilitate Ellen?s access, was also built (and there is some confusion as to whether the ?11,293 spent on this was included in the ?47,000). A short time later, one of the caravans was swapped for another caravan that was mice infested and dilapidated and soon became uninhabitable. As a result, the family were all living in one caravan, in overcrowded conditions.

In October 2005, a support worker in the Irish Wheelchair Association wrote to SDCC informing them of Ellen O?Donnell?s accommodation situation. Nine persons were living in the two-bedroom caravan. Ellen had to be lifted into and out of the caravan, Ellen had no independent living space, had to be carried to an outside toilet and shower facility. The caravan had also become mice infested. Between

SDCC felt that they had met their statutory obligations. SDCC noted that they had already provided accessible disability caravan accommodation to Ellen and her family in 2003, along with another caravan. However, Ellen?s parents had given away one of these caravans, so that nine members of the one family for many years lived in dilapidated and overcrowded conditions. This severely impacted on Ellen, who was unable to live a more autonomous life, had to use toilet facilities? outside the caravan (Ellen?s parents had the in caravan toilet facilities removed). Ellen shared a room with four other siblings, had to be lifted to and from the outdoor toilet. It was accepted by SDCC that the accommodation conditions that Ellen was (and still is) living in were not fit for human habitation. Just before the High Court decision in 2008, and on a number of occasions afterwards, SDCC made eight separate offers of alternative accommodation to the family, but not of these offers were accepted by the O?Donnell parents.

In 2008 in the High Court, Edwards J granted a declaration that Ellen?s rights under Article 8 ECHR had been violated. No order was made on the situation of other family members.

Decision of MacMenamin J

  1. Legislative Duties on the Council

 In the Supreme Court, MacMenamin J. held that the phrase ?dwelling?, interpreted in light of the ECHR Act 2003, could not be interpreted as including caravan/mobile home provision. While another statutory enactment referred to caravans/mobile homes as a ?temporary dwelling?, the ECHR Act could not be used so as to read these separate statutory provisions as one. To do so, would have in MacMenamin J?s view constituted ?judicial legislation?. In the arena of Traveller accommodation, MacMenamin J, relying on pre-ECHR Act 2003 case law, noted that there was a statutory obligation on the local authority to provide a halting site. While this legislative obligation is seemingly discretionary, in that the local authority ?may provide? such sites, MacMenamin J. stated that this was a mandatory obligation upon the local authority to provide halting sites.

 

  1. The Constitutional and ECHR Dimension

MacMenamin J. then considered the duties of the local authority under Section 6, Section 9 and Section 10 of the Housing Act 1988. Ellen O?Donnell was living in accommodation that was ?unfit for human habitation?, living in ?overcrowded accommodation?, had a reasonable requirement for separate accommodation, was in need of accommodation for ?medical or compassionate reasons? and Ellen was unable to meet the cost of the accommodation or to obtain other suitable accommodation. Relying on Costello J?s decision in O?Brien v Wicklow Urban District Council (discussed here), MacMenamin J. stated that the obligations on SDCC had to be considered in light of constitutionally protected rights ?and values? and the exceptional circumstances of this case, known to SDCC since 2005. The Supreme Court accepted that Ellen was subjected to inhuman and degrading accommodation conditions, infringing on Ellen?s private and family life compromising her rights to ?autonomy, bodily integrity and privacy?. MacMenamin J. noted that while Ellen?s parents could be viewed as having some responsibility for this, SDCC ?when faced with clear evidence of inhuman and degrading conditions, [had] to ensure it carried out its statutory duty? in order to vindicate Ellen?s constitutional rights under Article 40 and Article 40.3 of the Constitution. SDCC?s powers under Section 10 of the Housing Act 1988, ?could have? been exercised and executed by making offers of financial assistance, had repairs carried out at SDCC expense and/or ?contemplated lending a second caravan so as to make temporary accommodation space for Ellen, her brothers and sisters.? MacMenamin J. did not find that other family members constitutional rights or rights under the ECHR Act 2003 had been violated.

 

  1. The Result

As regards Ellen, MacMenamin J. varied the order of the High Court to a degree, making a declaration that Ellen was entitled to damages, which may be ?modest? for SDCC?s breach of her statutory rights. (The level of damages are to be assessed at a further plenary hearing in the High Court). MacMenamin J. also noted that neither the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights nor the EU?s accession to the UN Convention on the Protection of Disabilities, could be considered by the High Court in assessing damages. While not expressing a view, MacMenamin J. stated that Ellen?s parents may have ?potential legal liability or part liability?.

A New Dawn for Socio-Economic Rights?

One of the most significant aspects of the decision is that Ellen continues to live in deplorable housing conditions and has been subjected to such living conditions since at least 2005 (10 years and counting). It has taken 7 years to hear this appeal in the Supreme Court. While Ellen O?Donnell may now receive ?modest? damages, the result of this case has not ultimately contributed to Ellen being provided with dignified and habitable accommodation space (although no doubt SDCC are considering the decision and also noting the clear obligations that they may continue to have towards Ellen O?Donnell).

To take something more hopeful from the decision (which is very easy for me to do given that I am not subjected to the everyday indignities that Ellen O?Donnell and the O?Donnell family face), the language used by MacMenamin J in the Supreme Court is interesting. While there was some hand wringing from MacMenamin J as regards not engaging in ?judicial legislation?, there was no mention of Murphy J.?s dicta in T.D. of the constitution not providing any form of socio-economic right or benefit to citizens ?no matter how needy or deserving?. While anxious to explicitly identify the legislative obligations and duties on SDCC under the various Housing Acts, MacMenamin J., it may indicate some resiling from previous Supreme Court case law, in that the conditions that Ellen resided in were described in terms of being ?inhuman and degrading? and lacking respect for Ellen?s individual autonomy, private life and dignity.

This decision follows from MacEoichadh J?s comments in the direct provision case in the High Court at para. 12.6:

[W]here State action results in a breach of human rights and where the only remedy is the expenditure of additional money, the Court, in my opinion, must be entitled to make an appropriate order, even if the consequence is that the State must spend money to meet the terms of the order.

While the outcome of the direct provision case is very disappointing, and possibly I?m grasping at straws here, the socio-economic rights arguments were not immediately dismissed. While (as Prof. Gerry Whyte pointed out to me a few weeks ago when discussing the direct provision case) ?one swallow does not make a summer?, since the High Court decisions in 2007 and 2008 on Traveller accommodation and the ECHR, and now this case, it may be that the superior courts will not automatically dismiss court actions that have a socio-economic rights flavor. However, as many public interest lawyers will appreciate, this case unfortunately shows, a long road that has to be followed in using law as a means of progressing social change. Even with this decision, significant barriers remain in ensuring that Ireland lives up to its freely accepted international obligations on housing rights and the right to an adequate standard of living for all.

 

admin - Mon Mar 16, 2015 09:35
The programme for the 4th and final set of drafting workshops in the Northern/Irish Feminist Judgments Project is now online here. Events take place next month at Griffith College and UCD. The Northern/Irish Feminist Judgments Project brings a new critical methodology to bear on Irish and Northern Irish legal studies. A collective of academics and practitioners have come together across(...)

judges

The programme for the 4th and final set of drafting workshops in the Northern/Irish Feminist Judgments Project is now online here. Events take place next month at Griffith College and UCD. The Northern/Irish Feminist Judgments Project brings a new critical methodology to bear on Irish and Northern Irish legal studies. A collective of academics and practitioners have come together across 4 workshops to write the ?missing feminist judgments? in appellate cases which have shaped Irish and Northern Irish law. The Project will publish an edited collection of ?missing judgments? in 2016. We expect that it will be an important resource for teachers and students of law, practitioners and activists for many years to come. This workshop features contributions from leading feminist legal academics based in Ireland and Northern Ireland, and includes collaborations with the Irish Women Lawyers’ Association, and with the artists Jesse Jones and Sarah Browne. If you would like to attend any part of the Thursday or Friday events, please email irishfeministjudge@gmail.com. We especially welcome input from practitioners and activists with expertise in the areas covered by the draft judgments being presented at the workshop  (see programme at link above).

Aoife O'Donoghue - Wed Mar 11, 2015 11:10
UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is set to be the biggest conference yet solely dedicated to women’s issues. With 900 participants it has set itself as both a celebration of the 20th Anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, which is celebrated as a pivotal moment in the progression of women’s rights(...)

UNwomen-Logo-Blue-TransparentBackground-enUN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is set to be the biggest conference yet solely dedicated to women’s issues. With 900 participants it has set itself as both a celebration of the 20th Anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, which is celebrated as a pivotal moment in the progression of women’s rights but also a point of rejuvenation as the process of ensuring gender equality moves forward. Yet, the fault-lines and alliances that have appeared in the run-up to the Conference as well as the potential of push-back against what has stood for 20 years raises a serious points of concern. Could the CSW actually be a moment of regression rather than forward momentum?

The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action focused on, amongst other elements, Women and PovertyEducation and Training of Women, Women and HealthViolence against WomenWomen and Armed ConflictWomen and the EconomyWomen in Power and Decision-making, Institutional Mechanism for the Advancement of WomenHuman Rights of WomenWomen and the MediaWomen and the Environment and The Girl-child. It also explicitly recognised the role that women’s advocates and feminists had done to bring these issues to the fore, this acknowledgement was key in understanding the role that women had played in attempting realise their own equality and the price that some advocates paid in doing so.

The growing strength of the non-governmental sector, particularly women?s organizations and feminist groups, has become a driving force for change. Non-governmental organizations have played an important advocacy role in advancing legislation or mechanisms to ensure the promotion of women. They have also become catalysts for new approaches to development.

Together with the Millennium Development Goals, (MDG) which, amongst others, aimed to eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education…no later than 2015 and to improve maternal health as well as reducing child mortality, these two platforms were considered concrete steps forward. Whilst the implementation of both the Beijing Platform and the MDGs has left a tremendous amount to be desired, for example if we look here in Ireland we can see serious problems with achieving what was set out in both these documents, the presence of such aims gave advocates a strong grounding on which to base their claims against governments and other organisations.

What has struck many as problematic in the run-up to Beijing is the pre-ordained settlements that appear to have been made prior to the CSW itself as well as the roll back that some are calling for. The Women’s Rights Caucus is reporting that the Holy See (which is a non-member permanent observer state), Indonesia, Nicaragua, Russia and the Africa group of countries are attempting to limit references to human rights in the final text and critically to remove mention of the role feminist groups play in advancing gender equality from the DeclarationThe Holy See is also advocating the removal of the standalone gender equality target proposed in the Millennium Development Goals from the declaration. The Women’s Rights Caucus and have asked organisations to support its call to stop the Declaration from being watered down.

These are serious attempts to undermine the achievements of Beijing and the MDGs. Removing references to feminist groups is a clear assertion that feminism lack legitimacy in advocating gender equality, that less radical voices are required and that ignoring feminist voices is an acceptable stance for a government to take. Such a retrograde step against one doctrine which has been so fundamental in achieving what has been gained by women is astonishing. Failing to acknowledge past achievements and a future role is a clear attempt to re-write the history of women and to prevent feminism from taking a lead in the future. Whilst women are used to being written out of history, such a blatant attempt to do so within a history about women seem preposterous.

The advocacy of the Holy See, itself a form of doctrine, and the significant role it has a religious group above all other religions, who must rely on states to make their cases, ought to be seriously questioned. Allowing one religion to have such a powerful voice against women’s substantive equality when it is completely dominated by one sex and one view of the role of women should be a serious issue for the UN. The Holy See’s alliance against feminism, the use of human rights and gender equality as fundamental part of development needs also to be queried by those within the Church. The World Bank and IMF, which are currently leading a campaign against the gender pay gap, have repeatedly stated that women’s substantive equality within the workforce will be a strong driver of economic development. Whilst we can question what the World Bank and the IMF regard as development and their past roles regarding gender, their acknowledgement that restricting women’s choices in the workforce has a negative impact on a whole country ought to be a stronger voice than the Holy See.

Whilst the final outcome of the CSW remains open it is frustrating that 20 years after Beijing women must again fight to have their history, rights and development acknowledged, a step we perhaps had thought had already been taken.

Liam Thornton - Wed Mar 11, 2015 10:15
UCD Human Rights Network, in association with UCD Philosophy Society and UCD LGBTQ+ Society invite you to The Case for Marriage Equality Speakers: Senator Katherine Zappone and Dr Ann Louise Gilligan Chair: Dr Maurice Manning, Chancellor of the National University of Ireland. Date and Location: Thursday, 26th March 2015 at 6.30 pm in UCD Sutherland School of Law (map(...)

Marriage EqualityUCD Human Rights Network, in association with UCD Philosophy Society and UCD LGBTQ+ Society invite you to

The Case for Marriage Equality

Speakers: Senator Katherine Zappone and Dr Ann Louise Gilligan

Chair: Dr Maurice Manning, Chancellor of the National University of Ireland.

Date and Location: Thursday, 26th March 2015 at 6.30 pm in UCD Sutherland School of Law (map and directions to the building can be accessed here).

All are welcome to attend, and a discussion and Q & A will follow. If you are attending, registration for the event is required. You can register here.

Ntina Tzouvala - Sun Mar 08, 2015 18:09
2015 marks the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action, which amongst other initiatives attempted to bring violence against women to the forefront of UN?s action on gender equality. Twenty years later the situation remains grim. Despite the enactment of a series of domestic laws that focused on violence against women and more specifically(...)

2015 marks the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action, which amongst other initiatives attempted to bring violence against women to the forefront of UN?s action on gender equality.

Twenty years later the situation remains grim. Despite the enactment of a series of domestic laws that focused on violence against women and more specifically domestic violence, statistics confirm pessimists? intuitions. In late 2013 the World Health Organisation reported that ?35% of women worldwide have experienced either intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime? while ?as many as 38% of murders of women are committed by an intimate partner.?

Despite Orientalist stereotypes, there is no data that confirm the commonly held belief that Western states are doing better than the rest of the world on this front. Hence, in this brief note I will try to provide a brief account of the Greek legislative framework on domestic violence, and more specifically of the system of penal mediation. Two interrelated concerns will be discussed: firstly, that the system of penal mediation perpetuates and indeed accentuates the public/private divide which is constitutive of women?s systematic subjection to domestic violence. Secondly, I will attempt to situate the provision within the wider framework of international human rights law scrutinising the CEDAW Committee?s response to the legislation and to argue that the Committee systematically underestimates the adverse effects of the provision on gender equality in Greece.

The domestic framework

Domestic violence was first specifically penalised in Greece in 2006 thanks to the decades-long mobilisation of feminist organisations and, crucially, due to international pressure. For readers to acquire a fuller picture of gender (in)equality in Greece it needs to be noted that it was the same law (3500/06: Available here in Greek) which criminalised marital rape for the very first time.[1]

I stress the importance of international pressure because New Democracy, which governed Greece at the time, opted for a law that would ?satisfy? international demand, while interfering as little as possible with ?traditional values? and ?family, peace and stability?. The new law criminalised marital rape ,designated intimate relationships as aggravating circumstances in cases of violent crimes, and finally, enabled the Public Prosecutor to prosecute the perpetrator without the victim pressing charges even in the case of misdemeanours. It was this latter provision that was deemed overly ?intrusive? to family life to the extent that it questioned the sharp division of public and private life, which for feminists is one of the determining circumstances of women?s oppression in modernity.

Therefore, the Ministry of Justice, being determined to undertake the minimum action possible, introduced a system of penal mediation in cases of domestic violence misdemeanours. According to the relevant provisions (Arts 11-14 3500/06) the prosecutor is under an obligation to investigate the possibility of penal mediation in cases of misdemeanours. Practically, the prosecutor asks the victim whether she wants charges to be suspended for three years provided that the perpetrator: a) promises that he won?t repeat the offence and will leave the house if the victim wishes him to do so, b) agrees to attend a therapeutic program, and c) immediately restores any damage caused to the victim. If after three years no further offences are reported the criminal claim of the State is eliminated. (For a summary in English see here).

The drawbacks of the provision are evident. Practically, penal mediation formalises and legitimises the standard practice of the Greek state ? be it the police or the judiciary – to ignore, manipulate or even ridicule women who attempt to prosecute their violent partners. The law acknowledges that domestic violence is of a different quality, but this difference is linked to privacy and family stability and not gender inequality. In fact, the law did not identify domestic violence as a form of discrimination against women, but opted for a gender-neutral approach, and elevated the maintenance of family stability to one of its primary objectives.

Importantly, this is not just a feminist critique to implicit intentions, but it became crystal clear during the parliamentary debate. ?he (male) Minister of Justice of the day responded to the concern that women will be subjected to pressures to consent to the process as follows: ?In the course of the formulation of the institution of mediation care was taken so that neither of the two parts would benefit from the process – that the process is neutral. But of course, it is possible, as it was stressed by Mr Venizelos, that pressure will be placed on the victim to consent to the process. But why is this necessarily a bad thing?? (Parliamentary Hansard, translation is mine). Hence, it becomes evident that the system does not even intend to strike an (impossible) balance between women?s rights and the unity of the (violent) family, but it clearly prioritises the latter. Moreover, the provision ignores (or even worse, it duplicates) the behaviour patterns of abusive men, who after the abusive incident promise not to repeat the deed and exhibit unusually kind and affectionate behaviour (see condition a), but do turn violent again. Indeed, their violence tends to escalate. Hence, penal mediation sends the abused woman back home exposing her to risks of greater abuse and in extreme cases even death.

CEDAW Committee: A reluctant guardian

To feminists? great disappointment the stance of the CEDAW Committee has not been particularly helpful in this instance. Greece has been the subject of two periodic reports (2007 and 2013) after the enactment of the legislation. In both instances, the Committee expressed it concerns about the provision, yet it has not called for its abolition. Rather the Committee urged Greece to monitor the application of the provisions: ?in order to ensure that the legislation is implemented in a way that respects and promotes women?s human rights and does not lead to perpetrators escaping punishment. The Committee calls on the State party to put in place training measures for judges who conduct mediation in criminal proceedings for domestic violence cases so as to enhance their capacity to deal with violence against women in a gender-sensitive manner.?

This guidance, although useful, appears to ignore two things. First, the above analysis shows how the system was never meant to be ?gender-sensitive?, especially when the Minister himself declared that pressuring the victim to participate in the process is acceptable. Secondly, the monitoring suggested is impaired by the fact that Greece has repeatedly failed to produce and distribute any kind of gender-disaggregate statistics, and indeed this has been one of standard recommendations of the Committee. Hence, this otherwise modest reform appears to be practically more challenging than just abolishing the institution. Curiously, it was the Greek government that in Annex 2 of the same report promised to abolish mediation, but it never proceeded or even publicised this intention domestically.

?his reluctance is also revealing of CEDAW?s own shortcomings. The omission of gender-based violence from the original treaty was subsequently rectified by General Recommendations 12 and 19 that designated violence as a form of discrimination against women. Nonetheless, the initial silence is indicative of traditional human rights treaties? (and human rights discourse for that matter) difficulty to deal effectively with private sphere oppression. In this instance, the ?privatisation? of the criminal process is technically subject to the consent of the woman and therefore the Committee appears reluctant to characterise the process as discriminatory. Nevertheless, and given that this exception to the normal course of the criminal process is introduced for a crime that affects women disproportionately, this turn to consensual forms of settlement must be understood as discriminatory. This is even more the case given that mediation is highly exceptional for the Greek legal culture. When introduced back in 2006, penal mediation was the first such model across all branches of law (private law included). Hence, the specific legal context in Greece that generally favours and attaches moral value to criminal law and judicial settlement of disputes further emphasises the exceptional character of the provision and therefore, its discriminatory effect.

 

The effects of austerity

Since the introduction of austerity the situation was further aggravated. Amongst other devastating effects for gender equality, the management of the current crisis is thought to be amongst the leading root causes for the sharp increase of incidents of domestic abuse in Greece, but in also in other austerity-hit states like Spain. Insecurity, poverty and significantly, the collapse of the image of the powerful ?bread-winner? has led to increasingly violent male behaviour. Simultaneously, the already underfunded support structures were financially strangled and as a consequence it became practically impossible for many women to leave an abusive relationship, especially when unemployment and impoverishment rates are so high among women. Therefore, the legal framework coupled with the grim circumstances create an adverse background that perpetuates the victimisation of women. In this context, the immediate repeal of the relevant provisions, and the passing of a law that acknowledges the undeniable gender-related dimensions of the phenomenon and does not prioritise the stability of the (abusive) family are long overdue.

[1] It needs to be noted that numerous male MPs reacted to the criminalisation of marital rape and indeed some of them publicly stated that marital rape ?is not the same thing as being raped by some stranger in the park?.

Brian Tobin - Thu Mar 05, 2015 18:40
Those opposed to marriage equality and same-sex parenting are targeting the Children and Family Relationships Bill 2015, claiming that it is being pushed through by the government. This is disingenuous and fails to take account of the lengthy gestation period (no pun intended) that the legislation underwent before being debated by the Houses of the(...)

Those opposed to marriage equality and same-sex parenting are targeting the Children and Family Relationships Bill 2015, claiming that it is being pushed through by the government. This is disingenuous and fails to take account of the lengthy gestation period (no pun intended) that the legislation underwent before being debated by the Houses of the Oireachtas. I know this because I was one of the legal experts invited to Leinster House almost a year ago, on 9th April 2014, to engage in pre-legislative scrutiny of the General Scheme of the Bill with the members of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality. It has been claimed that the Bill has not been adequately scrutinised, but indeed it was. I would like to assure the public that the Bill?s provisions were indeed ?pored over? by me prior to my arrival at Leinster House, and the advice given by myself and the other medical and legal experts that day during a lengthy consultation helped to identify problems and recommend changes to the legislation to prevent unforeseen consequences for children.

The version of the Bill that the Oireachtas hopes to pass within weeks can most likely be passed in that time because it is the final, legally watertight version of the Bill that has been modified to reflect the child-centred changes recommended by the experts a year ago. The Bill also adheres to best practice worldwide in the context of donor-assisted human reproduction (DAHR). In September 2014 the Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald TD, made it clear that the expert opinion provided by myself and others had contributed to the careful refinement of the Bill when she stated that she had ?listened to the views expressed in the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality?s consultation.? The Bill certainly cannot be seen as a haphazard attempt at legislating for families.

Adoption

Marriage equality and same-sex parenting opponents disingenuously claim that the Bill demonstrates that the Government does not care whether one is raised by one?s own biological parents or ?two men or two women who may or may not be related to you?. Many adopted children nationwide are being       raised perfectly well by men and women biologically unrelated to them, so this preference for biological parents is most disrespectful to the child-rearing capability of all adoptive parents. Further, whether a child is raised by two men or two women who are related or unrelated to the child, an ever-increasing body of evidence shows that same-sex parenting is not detrimental to child welfare.

Donor-Assisted Human Reproduction

The opponents of progress and inclusiveness vehemently claim that ?the person who gives you half your identity is apparently not your parent just because the Government says so?, and this is simply untrue because the reason a donor is not treated as the parent of a child conceived via their donated egg or sperm is precisely because the donor intends to donate her/his genetic material to enable a loving, committed couple who would not otherwise be able to have a family to conceive a child. Indeed, to donate is to give something away for a worthy or charitable cause.

The opponents even resort to disinformation, claiming that ?in the case of egg-and-sperm donation, two mothers can be registered as the only legal parents, effectively eradicating the concept of genetic parent?. This assertion is highly sensationalist. Where a lesbian couple conceives a child via insemination of donor sperm, the child will have a genetic link to whichever member of the couple is inseminated with the sperm and ultimately gives birth to it, so there is no eradication of the concept of genetic parentage because the birth mother will always be the mother. Further, it is not uncommon for a lesbian couple to use the fertilised embryo of the woman who will not be carrying the child so that, in a sense both women can be genetically related to the child, although the woman in whom such an embryo is implanted will have but an epigenetic connection to the child. Nonetheless, there is certainly no eradication of the concept of genetic parent.

Marriage Equality

Dissatisfied with the denunciation of their arguments surrounding the 2015 Bill, the opponents then decide to launch into an attack on marriage equality because this is really what they take issue with. Objections to the 2015 Bill?s provisions are but a smokescreen for their moral repugnance of, and inherent belief in the wrongness of, gay and lesbian relationships. The opponents of progress and inclusiveness use case law of the European Court of Human Rights to highlight that Ireland is not under an obligation under the European Convention on Human Rights 1950 to introduce same-sex marriage. While this is correct, they neglect to mention that Article 53 of the Convention provides that ?it is of course open to Member States to provide for rights more generous than those guaranteed by the Convention? so if the Irish people choose to embrace marriage equality under the Irish Constitution on 22nd May it is no concern of the European Court of Human Rights. This is the reason why countries such as France, England and Wales, Scotland, Spain and Portugal certainly were not acting in breach of the Convention when they legalised marriage equality.

The introduction of the Children and Family Relationships Bill 2015 will be no democratic disaster; it will be the result of painstaking work by our legislators and their advisors that has been on-going since Alan Shatter first introduced the General Scheme of the Bill in January 2014.

admin - Thu Mar 05, 2015 11:20
?The Gaza Strip: Military & Legal Perspectives? A Public Lecture by Col. Desmond Travers When: Monday, 23 March 2015, 6:30pm ? 8pm Where: Renehan Hall, South Campus, Maynooth University Desmond Travers is a retired Irish army colonel who served with a number of UN peacekeeping missions in the Middle East and the Balkans. He is(...)

mayuni_logo?The Gaza Strip: Military & Legal Perspectives?

A Public Lecture by Col. Desmond Travers

When: Monday, 23 March 2015, 6:30pm ? 8pm

Where: Renehan Hall, South Campus, Maynooth University

Desmond Travers is a retired Irish army colonel who served with a number of UN peacekeeping missions in the Middle East and the Balkans. He is now a director of the Institute for International Criminal Investigations in the Hague, where he trains and supports teams involved in the investigation and prosecution of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. Colonel Travers was a member of the Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict that was deployed by the United Nations in 2009, following Israel’s ‘Operation Cast Lead’ in the Gaza Strip. A similar independent international investigative mechanism, the Commission of Inquiry on the Gaza Conflict, was created by the UN following Israel’s ‘Operation Protective Edge’ in the summer of 2014, with a mandate to investigate all violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. This commission is scheduled to present its report to the UN Human Rights Council on 23 March 2015. Drawing on his experiences as a military investigator and legal-political analyst in the context of the Middle East, Col. Travers will provide his reflections on this latest investigative process and on Israel’s use of force in the Gaza Strip last summer, as well as his analysis of current and future developments in Palestine/Israel.

Attendance is free and all are welcome; please email law@nuim.ie to register.

Yvonne Daly - Tue Mar 03, 2015 14:02
Maynooth University Department of Law is hosting a talk by two of the ?Hooded Men?, Jim Auld and Joe Clarke, followed by a legal analysis of the European Court of Human Rights Case with Fiona Duignan, LLM. The event will talk place Monday, 9 March, at 5pm in CS2, which is located in the Callan(...)

Maynooth University Department of Law is hosting a talk by two of the ?Hooded Men?, Jim Auld and Joe Clarke, followed by a legal analysis of the European Court of Human Rights Case with Fiona Duignan, LLM.

The event will talk place Monday, 9 March, at 5pm in CS2, which is located in the Callan Building on the North Campus of Maynooth University.

In 2014 the Irish government requested that the case of Ireland v UK be reopened before the European Court of Human Rights. The case concerned the treatment of the ?Hooded Men?, republicans detained by British forces in 1971 and subjected to deprivation of food and water, deprivation of sleep, continuous loud noise, forced stress positions and prolonged hooding at Ballykelly British Army Base in Northern Ireland.

The Irish government brought a complaint against the UK to the European Court of Human Rights. While the Court found that the treatment of the men amounted to inhuman and degrading treatment, it held that it did not meet the threshold of torture.

Following a review of recently released British government documents which shed additional light on the treatment of the ?Hooded Men?, and the evolution of the definition of torture, the Irish government has now referred the case back to the European Court and asked it to revise its decision that this treatment did not amount to torture.

This discussion looks at the background to the Ireland v UK case and analyses the importance of its reopening and the significance of a finding of torture by the Court.

For more information on this event click here.

Human Rights in Ireland >>

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