State urged to act on human rights proposals

Megan Moynihan from Cork in the Grand Hotel, Malahide over the weekend at the meeting of the Convention on the Constitution. Pic: Maxwells

Human rights chiefs have welcomed proposals for Ireland to better protect people’s rights to healthcare, social security, and housing.

Amnesty International last night urged the Government to act on the final recommendations of the Constitutional Convention in the interests of people.

Members of the 100-person convention yesterday voted overwhelmingly to recommend reform of economic, social, and cultural rights in the Constitution.

Convention chairman Tom Arnold thanked members for giving up their time over the last year — matters that the panel has debated and voted on included gay marriage and reforming politics.

Mr Arnold said a report on the weekend deliberations and final meeting would go to the Oireachtas and that the Government was expected to respond to recommendations by June.

Up to 85% of the convention’s members said the Constitution should be amended to strengthen the protection of economic, social, and cultural rights. Up to 59% said those rights should be realised by the State, “subject to maximum available resources and that this duty is recognisable by the courts”.

Over two-thirds of penal members or more backed the inclusion of additional rights in the Constitution including housing (84%), social security (78%), essential health care (87%), rights of people with disabilities (90%), and linguistic and cultural rights (75%).

Over the weekend, members heard arguments for and against reform from the likes of Amnesty International executive director Colm O’Gorman and Michael McDowell, a former justice minister.

Mr O’Gorman said yesterday: “We are emerging from some of our darkest economic days, while looking to the centenary of our birth. We must consider how we might do things differently.”

Mr McDowell, also a former attorney general, argued against putting a “vague” collection of rights into law.

He also questioned if the courts would or should take on board considerations around such rights when dealing with individual cases.

The convention said that economic, social, and cultural rights were currently protected in a limited manner in the Constitution and that the focus of the meeting was on whether or not these rights should be afforded greater Constitutional protection.

Responding to the convention’s recommendations, Mr O’Gorman added: “We urge the Government to act upon this final recommendation from the convention in a timely manner.

“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”


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