In February, the government-appointed Constitutional Convention called for economic, social and cultural (ESC) rights to be placed in Bunreacht na hÉireann. The Convention decided that the limited protection of ESC rights in our Constitution is inadequate. And they recommended vital change.
This month marks the mid-way point in the period during which the Government will consider the recommendation of the Constitutional Convention, with the Government due to respond by the end of July.
Today, Amnesty International Ireland launched a new report, Bringing ESC Rights Home: The case for legal protection of economic, social and cultural rights in Ireland.
The report sets out how the legal protection of ESC rights can be strengthened in Ireland. It outlines how this has been achieved by other States, both in Europe and beyond. It explains the significant added value of legally protecting ESC rights – better planning processes and fairer outcomes for people, greater accountability and transparency, and evidence-based decision-making.
Colm O’Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland, said: “We hope our report will guide the Government in its response, and that it will say yes to the Convention’s recommendations. We hope it will also guide the Oireachtas, legislators and policy makers in the wider discussion on ESC rights in Ireland.
“Recent months have seen increasing public and political debate about how policy failures in areas such as health and housing have affected people across Ireland. Every day we hear about flawed decision-making processes, and concerns about how resources are allocated and shared. How those in greatest need are sometimes not prioritised.
“Too often we see quick fix solutions, usually when grave difficulties faced by individual people become a political or media crisis. Human Rights require the kind of systemic, fundamental change which would help to avoid such failures in the first place.
“As Ireland exits its bailout and some tentative signs of economic recovery emerge, Ireland has yet to address a number of issues of grave public concern. This includes the a widely held belief that government decisions are made to balance the books whatever the impact on sections of society, to protect those vested interests able to shout loudest, to focus on the economy – and the economy alone – at any cost.
As Ireland exits its bailout and some tentative signs of economic recovery emerge, Ireland has yet to address a number of issues of grave public concern. This includes the a widely held belief that government decisions are made to balance the books whatever the impact on sections of society, to protect those vested interests able to shout loudest, to focus on the economy - and the economy alone - at any cost.Colm O'Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland
“The Government now has a chance to create the kind of fundamental reform which would place people, and their rights, at the heart of its decision-making in the Constitution.
“Better protecting ESC rights in our Constitution will not cure all our ills, of course. But it will require the Government to design systems that prioritise good, evidence-based decisions, in the interest of all our people.
”It would require all government departments to clearly link what they spends with what they hopes to achieve with that spending, and place people’s rights at the centre of such decisions,” said Colm O’Gorman.
“In February, the Convention heard that there has simply never been sufficient political will to protect the range of rights Ireland has committed to under international law. Our report shows that now is the time that it can, and should, change that.”
Economic, social and cultural right include rights like housing, health, education and social protection and are contained in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Ireland ratified in 1989.
In February, the Constitutional Convention heard from its invited speakers that the Irish Constitution already protects these rights to a very limited degree, and that it can provide fully for these rights.
Based on the evidence it reviewed, the Convention voted by overwhelming majority of 85 per cent that Bunreacht na hÉireann be amended to strengthen the protection of ESC rights.