Last May the Geneva-based committee adopted the “outcome report” of its universal periodic review (UPR) of Ireland’s compliance with the UN Convention on Human Rights. Ten speakers, representing Irish and international human rights organisations, spoke at the event.
Some 262 recommendations were made to Ireland by other member states on issues including prison conditions, the direct provision system, the rights of people with disabilities and access to schools for children from faiths other than Christian. The Government accepted 176, partially accepted 46, but did not support 40.
Among those rejected were 16 on decriminalising abortion and improving access to services; one on ensuring publicly funded schools provide equal access to education for all, irrespective of religion; one on recognising Traveller ethnicity; two on improving quality of life for the Roma community; and one on mitigating the negative impact of budget cuts.
Emily Logan, chief commissioner with the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, said the commission “remains concerned that the current legal position in relation to abortion puts in place barriers which impede a woman’s right to bodily autonomy and has a disproportionate negative impact particularly on women from lower socioeconomic backgrounds and women who are seeking asylum or migrant women.”
She added: “We regret that the important issue of Traveller ethnicity has not been progressed since Ireland’s first periodic review in 2011.”
Murat Adali, of the Council of Europe, said monitoring bodies were concerned about the “discrimination against vulnerable groups like people with disabilities and children who are at risk of falling victim to austerity measures.” He voiced concern about “difficulties” faced by the Traveller community and “poor prison conditions”
Cordelia Tucker O’Sullivan of the British Humanist Association and British Pregnancy Advice Services said it was “clear that Irish abortion laws are illegal under international human rights law”.
Meghan Doherty, of Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights, said organisations for which she was speaking – including the Abortion Rights Campaign and the Sex Workers Alliance Ireland, were, “deeply concerned” on this.
She added: “We express deep disappointment at the Government’s continued failure to respond to concerns about the human rights of sex workers and its continued support for the criminalisation of sex work”.
John Mullan of Edmund Rice International raised concerns about the 14 per cent of children leaving school and called for a “legislative holistic response to marginalised young people” .
The Irish Ambassador in Geneva, Patricia O’Brien, said the Government was “fully committed to the UPR process”.