You can access a very brief overview of just some of the organisations presenting before the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights from 10am to 11am here, here and here. These are my notes on Minister Sherlock’s engagement with CESCR and should be checked against delivery. It is not a transcript of Minister Sherlock’s speech (except for clear quotations).
Mr Sean Sherlock TD Minister of State at Department of Foreign Affairs welcomed the active engagement of IHREC and civil society organisations in Ireland’s ICESCR examination. Minister Sherlock outlined how committed Ireland is to equality, referencing the marriage equality referendum and advances in LGBT rights. Minister Sherlock noting the advances made to Trans* rights and the recognition of diverse families under Child and Family Relationships Bill. Minister Sherlock stated that “fiscal adjustment” was needed due to severe economic recession since 2008, with a severe fall in employment. The employment figure was at one rate over 15%, but for Q1 for 2015, now an unemployment rate of (just) less than 10%. The Government reemphasises its aim for full employment by 2018. The financial crisis posed challenged Ireland’s ability as regards expending its “maximum available resources” on social, economic and cultural rights. Ireland:
- Maintained core welfare payments;
- Burden of economic adjustment shared across society, as confirmed by ESRI;
- Economy being built of competitiveness and innovation, rather than on construction centre.
A “growing economy is not an end in and of itself” but to ensure meeting core social, economic and cultural rights. There will be a “national economic dialogue” to facilitate an open and inclusive approach to the budget, and the realistic options open to Government. Representatives of community, voluntary, research institutes, the diaspora and academia etc. A Social Impact Analysis will now take place as regards taxation and social welfare/assistance in Budget 2016. Government spending on social protection has increased by 1/3 since 2007. There has been a sustained investment in social transfers, and the at risk of poverty rate has been reduced. The Irish income tax system is “highly progressive”, and has been very effective in reducing poverty through such social transfers.
The Irish government is currently reviewing approaches to fair pay, low pay and other issues surrounding work.
On disability policy and co-ordination, the government will be issuing an employment disability strategy. This employment strategy will have significant targets of improving pathways for work.
On the area of business and human rights, Ireland is finalising a plan to ensure that Irish business respects human rights when engaging in commerce.
On the right to housing, Minister Sherlock stated “We have not been as successful as we should have been in helping people find homes for themselves” A number of strategies and financing has been agreed.
The government are committed to universal health care.
The Irish education system aims to provide opportunities for learners to engage with “society and the economy”. There are significant plans for curriculum reform.
On children’s rights, Ireland amended the constitution to strengthen children’s rights, including distinct recognition of children, with best interests of the child as the core test “in a number of areas of law”.
The Government acknowledge that only 16% of seats in the Dáil are women. In Ireland’s next general election, will be first time that gender quotas will be utilised.
Ireland endeavours to be a respectful place for minorities. The Department of Justice are currently “engaged” with Travellers in relation to their recognition as an ethnic group.
[My notes: No mention of direct provision, habitual residence condition by Minister Sherlock]
Judge Pillay is now leading ICESCR’s exploration of Ireland’s report and Minister Sherlock’s input to the Committee. The next blog post will be within 45-60 minutes.