Human Rights & the Irish Government’s Legislative Agenda 2012 and Beyond


The Department of An Taoiseach has published the overly ambitious legislative agenda for the current Dáil and Seanad session. The Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill 2010 will (hopefully!) be heading to Committee Stage this term. The 2010 Immigration Bill has been around in essence since 2006, and will unlikely be coming into force for some time to come yet, despite severe need for fundamental reform of Ireland’s immigration and asylum laws.  Previous blog posts have discussed concerns with the 2010 Bill and its provisions, as well as noting the severe delays in debating this bill [see, herehere and here].  In the immediate future, a number of significant bills are expected be published that will engage Ireland’s human rights obligations under domestic, European and international human rights law. Of particular note in this regard will be establishing the DNA database (see Vicky’s Blog Carnival posts on DNA databases) and reforming the law on mental capacity (see Law Reform Commission’s report hereand Human Rights in Ireland contributions to the wider capacity debate here).

large number of other  Schemes/Heads of Bills are currently being drafted up as bills, in particular as regards criminal justice issues, corruption and legal aid. The establishment of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (heads of bill here) will be awaited with particular interest, given that the initial panel established to decide who should become Commissioners of this new body resigned due to concerns expressed by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (and for the Minister for Justice and Equality’s response, see here). The Judicial Council Bill (scheme of bill) will put in place amongst other things, complaint mechanisms as regards judicial misbehavior. There are human rights issues that will need to be examined as regards Landlord and Tenant Bill (scheme), Whistleblowers legislation (draft heads) and Freedom of Information legislation (draft scheme).

Other significant legislative proposals will not be passed into law by the Oireachtas before 2013 including issues of child detention schools; school enrollments; issues relating to bail; victims rights (Yvonne‘s comment on issues relating to victim’s rights initiatives here) and the bill abolishing the Seanad (contributors reflections on this debate here and recent discussion document on abolition here).  Significantly, there seems to be a continued lack of urgency in legislating for the rights of the Trans community (see, Report of the Gender Recognition Advisory Group), which is all the more worrying considering Transgender Equality Network Ireland‘s research on suicide and self harm published today. Prior to the publication of the bill, the heads or scheme of the Gender Recognition Bill will go for consultation to an Oireachtas committee pre-publication. The unwillingness to bring Ireland rapidly into conformity with other European states and to remedy the declaration of incompatibility issued in the Foy case,  has been noted both on this blog and elsewhere (see hereherehere and here).

All in all, there are significant human rights issues that will be debated in the Oireachtasover the coming months and years and that have the potential to impact significantly on the rights of all persons in Ireland.