Colin Daly of the Northside Community Law Centre also said the European Convention on Human Rights, incorporated into law in 2003, has been shown to have “underlying weaknesses” without the support of legal arguments based on the Irish Constitution and other statutes.
The NCLC argued on behalf of Caroline McCann who owed money to her local credit union and won a landmark ruling on imprisonment for non-payment of debts after Ms McCann had brought a test case in 2009 challenging the constitutionality of debtors laws.
Speaking at a conference on the ECHR that featured contributions from agencies both North and South, Mr Daly said, if the case had been decided purely on the 2003 ECHR Act, Ms McCann could still have faced imprisonment. Instead, Constitutional arguments were put forward, helping to secure the decision in her favour.
Donncha O’Connell, School of Law, NUI Galway, said at the conference, organised by the Free Legal Aid Centres (FLAC), the ECHR had not had the impact some might have expected when it became law in 2003. “At one level this indicated some defensiveness about domestic protections and a degree of scepticism about the added value to be gained by a fuller embrace of the ECHR in domestic law and, perhaps more pointedly, the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights.”