Concern at cuts to human rights bodies

AN independent United Nations expert has warned funding cuts to human rights bodies is substantially reducing Ireland’s capacity to protect the vulnerable in society.

Magdalena Sepulveda Carmona, who undertook a review of human rights and extreme poverty in Ireland earlier this year, said our economic and financial crises have “wrought havoc” on the country, with increasing numbers unemployed, living in poverty and suffering social exclusion.

She warned that measures being taken to lift Ireland out of its current economic slump are ‘concerning’ from a human rights perspective.

Budgetary cuts to the Irish Human Rights Commission (IHRC), the Equality Authority, the Ombudsman for Children and the National Disability Authority have substantially reduced Ireland’s capacity to protect the most vulnerable people, she said.

Ms Sepulveda also highlighted the fact that several areas of law particularly relevant for people living in poverty, such as eviction proceedings and local authority housing issues, are not covered by the legal aid scheme.

She also recommended that the Government consider including Employment Appeals Tribunals in the legal aid scheme.

According to the report, older people will suffer the cumulative effect of several austerity measures, including the introduction of a prescription charge, means- tested access to medical cards, reduction in home- care hours and services, and in day-care services.

Ms Sepúlveda said a significant number of people with disabilities in Ireland are living in consistent poverty.

Ms Sepulveda said that while Ireland had made impressive advances in poverty reduction over the past decade, these gains will be reversed if those living in poverty and social exclusion are not protected during the recovery.

She said the burden of the crises must be shared by all segments of Irish society, while those living in poverty and social exclusion must be protected as a matter of priority.

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