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7th July 2020, 12:24:40 UTC

Some good progress, but the detail and implementation is where we will see actual change.

Issues addressed:

• Right to housing
• Right to health and (economic, cultural and social rights)
• Direct provision
• Climate Emergency
• Occupied Territories Bill
• Decriminalisation of drugs
• Abortion

In response to the Programme of Government published today, Amnesty International welcomed some commitments on key human rights issues, but warned that it was in the detail of its implementation that we would see any real change happen. There were some glaring omissions, such as the Occupied Territories Bill.

“We very much welcome the commitment to a referendum on housing, but it needs to be a referendum based on the recommendations of the 2014 Constitutional Convention. Housing is a human right and should be enshrined in our Constitution, otherwise we will not see the change the people of Ireland clearly want,” said Colm O’Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland.

“The Convention also recommended a referendum on economic, cultural and social rights beyond the right to housing, including the right to health. As we emerge from the pandemic, it could not be clearer that we need to see a huge shift in the healthcare system. Need, not wealth, should be the determiner in accessing healthcare.

“The commitment to finally end Direct Provision, and replace it with accommodation that has the protection and promotion of human rights at its core is of course welcome. The pandemic showed us in a truly brutal way why the existing system needed to end, so this needs to happen as a priority. The interim measures are urgently needed to improve the lives and well-being of those still within the current system.

“The focus on the Climate Emergency is encouraging, as it is the greatest human rights crisis we face globally. But it is in the detail and the implementation of the Covid-19 economic recovery package that we will see if these commitments will be played out across government plans. We need to rapidly phase out of fossil fuel subsidies in favour of greater social protection, and actively transition away from fossil fuels towards human rights-consistent renewable energy, and create new green jobs.

“The very lack of a reference to the Occupied Territories Bill is hugely disappointing and a missed opportunity for Ireland to show global leadership. While we welcome the strong commitments to oppose the imminent annexation and help end the conflict, we call on the incoming government to enact this Bill. Ireland has condemned illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian land. We now need to show leadership by banning the import of goods produced in those settlements, and put an end to the profits that fuel mass human rights violations.

“We look forward to engaging with the proposed Citizens’ Assembly review of drugs policy. But the new government should move immediately to decriminalise the possession of drugs for personal use. The outgoing government’s proposal was to keep this a criminal offence, as a back-up when diverting people from the justice system to treatment services. But healthcare should be provided on a voluntary basis – not as an alternative to prosecution.

“The commitment to creating safe access zones outside medical facilities is welcome – women and girls should be able to access abortion care in dignity and safety. The long promised legislation needs to be enacted urgently. But beyond the note of the 3 year review of the new abortion law, there are no further commitments. As revealed last week, 375 pregnant people were forced to travel to England and Wales in the first year of our new abortion law, showing that many are still falling through the cracks.

“In time when we are seeing a roll back on the rights or attacks on the Trans community in countries like the UK, the US and Hungary, the progressive commitments in the Programme for Government are welcome. The commitment to a general health policy for Trans people based on a best practice model is the right step forward. So too is the proposed examination of how children under 16 could access legal gender recognition. We need this blanket age restriction lifted as a matter of urgency. Also positive is the commitment to examine legal recognition of non-binary people. People who identify as neither male nor female and intersex people also need legal recognition in order to be included, accepted and valued.”


Please see here for Amnesty International Ireland’s Programme for Government Submission, 18 May 2020

Please see here for Amnesty International’s General Election 2020 – Briefing for political parties and groups: Key human rights commitments in the Programme for Government