This is my attempted structuring of the core questions asked of Minister Sherlock and the Irish delegation by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The questions are coming quick and fast, and I do hope I’m fairly reflecting the complexity of the questions asked. [Ended, see responses of State delegation here]
Incorporation and Justiciability of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
- Why doesn’t Ireland incorporate economic, social and cultural rights in the constitution?
- There is a recommendation from the Constitutional Convention, as regards protecting socio-economic and cultural rights? What is the current status on progressing this issue?
- Will Ireland allow its citizens to bring complaints before the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights?
- Given that Ireland has incorporated the European Convention on Human Rights in domestic law (ECHR Act 2003), why can’t the Irish government incorporate ICESCR in a similar manner?
- Article 45 of the Irish Constitution: Does the State value ALL human rights, including socio-economic rights?
- Is the government going to renew the national action plan on racism? What measures has the Government taken that IHREC is adequately resourced?
- What measures is the government taken to ensure that the principles of non-retrogression, minimum core obligations, non-discrimination etc. are considered and respected by State, in particular as regards asylum seekers, Roma, Travellers, women, persons living in poverty?
- Asylum seekers and direct provision are waiting in accommodation for 5-7 years. There is a negative impact on family life. “We are concerned that direct provision violates family life, the right to work, the right to social assistance”
- The National Women’s Strategy is about to end, what needs to be improved further as regards women’s rights?
- Does Ireland have any plans to prohibit discrimination on further grounds (i.e. socio-economic status)?
- Does Ireland protect non-citizens rights to their economic, social and cultural rights?
- Ireland seems unique as regards the lack of separation of church & state in a developed State?
- In terms of gender, how are the socio-economic rights of women fully respected and protected in Ireland.
- What issues/problems emerge as regards the scheme for Magdalene Laundries redress and are socio-economic rights now being respected?
- How does the State ensure child care is offered?
- What issues with domestic violence arise and what supports are in place as regards victims of domestic violence?
- How can you reconcile the contradiction between Ireland’s preferred status to the unborn (in the Constitution), compared to the rights of women, when a woman’s health is under threat?
- How is Ireland’s abortion regime compatible with the right to sexual and reproductive health? In particular as regards victims of rape, and where a foetus is non-viable outside the womb?
- Why doesn’t the Government hold a referendum on an issue of abortion?
- What steps have been taken by Government to ensure that the 2014 Information Document, ensure that women can access their right to life-saving abortion?
- Thousands of women have to access abortion services and this has a disproportionate impact on poor women, female asylum seekers, and other women who do not have the resources or ability to travel abroad for reproductive services. What is the State’s response to this?
- In terms of domestic violence in Ireland’s obligation-there are gaps. Ireland has made a commitment to review this legislation and to introduce the Domestic Violence Bill 2015. Any update on this?
- There has been significant cuts as regards domestic violence support services. Why is this the case?
- In terms of Budgeting: Are there gender sensitive budgeting analysis and exploration on the impact of women, in particular marginalised women?
- What training has been provided to the judiciary as regards economic, social and cultural rights?
- Will Ireland collect disaggregate data to assess the socio-economic rights of Travellers and Roma in Ireland
- Does Ireland have effective mechanisms to ensure equal enjoyment of rights for Travellers and Roma?
- What State mechanisms are in place to ensure implementation of UN human rights treaty bodies recommendations and address concerns as regards meeting UN human rights treaty obligations.
Austerity, Equality and Human Rights
- Are Ireland’s austerity measures temporary?
- What lessons can Ireland (and all of us) learn from its approach to austerity?
- Is it the view of Ireland that Memorandum of Understanding were “imposed” on Ireland, and this was essentially coercion?
- As regards the burden of the sovereign debt crisis: in public statements from Cabinet ministers, corporate tax rate is “settled policy”. Would Ireland agree that failure to moving towards a common EU corporate tax rate, is impacting on the enjoyment of socio-economic rights.
- 2/3 of budget adjustments arose from cuts in spending. In retrospect, is it the view of Ireland that this was appropriate in light of Ireland’s obligations under ICESCR?
- Many countries are going through austerity. But there are certain areas that must be untouchable-education and health-these areas need to be protected. How has the State protected these areas from austerity?
Legal Aid and Access to Justice
- Will the legal aid scheme be strengthened, as regards employment, social welfare appeals, housing and eviction?
- Why are certain areas excluded from legal aid i.e. if persons are evicted and how the legal aid system deals with this issue.
Social Security & Adequate Standard of Living (including Housing)
- Recent Eurostat data, the % of social benefits that are means tested in Ireland is quite high (EU av. 11.1%). What measures are taken to ensure that people are not under included within the right to social security?
- Ireland has “done considerably good things” in maintaining core social welfare rates. But standard of living of children, people with disabilities, migrant workers, single parent families etc. has fallen significantly. If poverty is to be eliminated by 2016 (Government target), please estimate the implementation of this?
- How does habitual residence condition cause difficulty for those within the welfare system? In particular victims of domestic violence?
- Lone female parents suffer significantly from poverty (35.5%), what update will the State give us on figures post 2009?
- Why is the first instance decision making process as regards social welfare entitlements so poor? Why is there such a high level of success on appeal to the Social Welfare Appeals Office?
- What measures have been taken to assist tenants from the increase in rents to ensure that these persons are not evicted?
- Why has the Government kept rent allowance/supplement at 2013 levels. 450 families (including 1000 children) have entered homeless services support in the last number of months.
- How is Government planning to increase the level of social housing. The statistics show that the Government are not ensuring adequate supply (raised in concluding observations in 2002)?
- As regards the Mortgage Arrears Crisis: Why has this been amended to the benefit of the bank? Will the Government provide a commitment to provide borrowers with an independent mechanism to appeal decisions?
- What actions are the State taken as regards the complaint to the European Committee on Social Rights (see here) in terms of the horrific housing conditions that some local authority tenants are being subjected to?
Mental & Physical Health
- Some concerns as regards congregated mental/physical health settings and to move to community settings for persons with intellectual disabilities, with other physical needs.
- The Committee is concerned at mental health of asylum seekers due to the system of direct provision. Please comment on this issue.
- As regards children under 18, what measures of persons with intellectual disabilities are not cared for in adult settings?
- To what extent does the Irish medical card system ensure access to innovative (but expensive) treatments for life-saving medical treatment?
- Ireland has a two-tier health service: How do the public health facilities deal with public/private patients, in particular as regards waiting times and differences for public and private patients?
- What is quantity of jobseekers who have been impacted by “activation measures”?
- What has the State done to protect employees on low or zero hour contracts?
- Is the minimum wage of €8.65 possible to ensure an adequate standard of living, and what percentage of the work force are subject to the minimum wage?
- What steps are being taken to allow asylum seekers in direct provision to access their right to work?
- What is the government doing to combat the gender pay gap and higher rate of female unemployment in Ireland?
- Why does Ireland permit discrimination on the basis of religion as regards access to educational establishments?
- Will the new School Admissions Bill remove religious discrimination?
- Austerity measures have had a negative impact, meaning fewer teachers and support services. Could you please comment on this? Austerity measures impacted particularly on low income areas, in particular as regards Traveller children. Why is this the case?
- Issue of education seems to be a sensitive issue. The issue of religion and the education system. People with disabilities, Travellers, migrants, children of non-religious parents. What measures are you planning to introduce to ensure non-discrimination in access to education? Do you need a referendum on the issue of discrimination?
- As regards Travellers, there are a high level of early school leavers in comparison with the general population, why is this the case?
- Ireland is dominated by the Catholic Church, children placed in some Catholic institutions are abused.
- Why is the Republic reluctant to grant Traveller ethnic recognition for students?
- What measures have you taken as regards measures against racism, thinking particularly against minorities (Muslim students)?
- You appear to be considering a strategy as regards intercultural education. This is occurring following the demographic changes-what are the results from the intercultural education strategy? Will Ireland set up secular schools?
- To what extent does the State ensure participation of refugees and asylum seekers as regards cultural life and institutions of culture?
- Why has the State not recognised Travellers in Ireland as a distinct ethnic group? What are the remaining obstacles to recognition of Travellers as a minority ethnic group in Ireland?