In its final meeting this weekend the Constitutional Convention considered whether Bunreacht na hÉireann should be amended to better protect fundamental human rights like health, social security and housing.
The Constitutional Convention examined existing limited provision for economic, social and cultural (ESC) rights. They heard that our Constitution can, and already does to some limited degree, provide for these rights. They heard that there has simply never been sufficient political will to protect the range of rights Ireland has committed to under international law.
The Convention has decided that the limited protection of ESC rights in our constitution is inadequate. And they have recommended vital change.They have recommended that Bunreacht na hÉireann be amended to strengthen the protection of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
They rightly determined that it is for the Irish people should decide what human rights governments should be obliged to protect, under our Constitution.
Colm O’Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland said, “Those who framed our Constitution 77 years ago had a vision for our Republic. The Constitutional Convention recognised that further protection of ESC rights would help give effect to that vision.
“We note the support of both Government parties for such a proposal when, in 1999, the Labour Party introduced a Bill to enshrine Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Bunreacht na hÉireann. That Bill was supported by both Labour and Fine Gael, with thirteen members of the current Government, including the Taoiseach and Tánaiste, supporting the bill.
All parties currently in opposition have voiced their support for this proposal. The current Government now has an invaluable opportunity to show that principles of accountability, transparency, and a commitment to good governance, all crucial components of delivering on ESC rights, are not principles only to be held in opposition, and abandoned in power’
Once the Government receives the detail of this recommendation for the Constitutional Convention it will have four months to respond.
“We urge the Government to act upon this final recommendation from the Convention in a timely manner”, said Colm O’Gorman.
“It will, of course, not cure all our ills. But it will require that government design systems that prioritise good, evidence based decisions, in the interest of all our people”
Ireland already spends considerable sums in areas like health and housing and social security.The Convention has recognised that we must link what we spend with what we hope to achieve with that spending. There is strong public support for this idea.
Amnesty International commissioned public polling by Red C this month. 81 per cent supported decision-making and expenditure based on human rights. As the economy recovers, we must consider how the fruits of that recovery are spent.
“We would like to thank the constitutional convention for making this carefully considered and vital recommendation. As the Constitutional Convention comes to a close, we would like to acknowledge the enormous contribution the Constitutional Convention it has made in developing ground-breaking recommendations for constitutional change across a range of areas”, said Colm O’Gorman.
Further detail on the results of the ballot
85% support greater constitutional protection of economic, social and cultural rights.
59% support inserting provision that states shall progressively realise economic, social and cultural rights, subject to maximum available resources and that this duty be cognisable by the Courts.
80% support protection of all rights contained in the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights.
84% specifically support the right to housing.
87% specifically support the right to essential health care.
78% specifically support the right to social security.
90% specifically support the rights of persons with disabilities.
75% specifically support linguistic and cultural rights.