Independent TD Mattie McGrath has said that Ireland’s appearance today before the United Nations Human Rights Committee will do nothing to establish meaning dialogue on many of the issues on the Committees agenda. Deputy McGrath was speaking ahead of the meeting which will see Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald appears before the UN Committee at approximately 2pm Irish time to discuss among other things issues which have been controversially described as ‘church dominance of schools, and women’s reproductive rights’ by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL):
“There is a perception out there especially among groups like the ICCL that the obligations all run one way; in the sense that Ireland must go before these kinds of Committees and justify why it has not taken on board what are essentially non-binding recommendations.
That fact seems to be continually lost on the more radical human and civil rights groups. Certainly in relation to areas like redress for the victims of symphysiotomy or protecting the rights of disabled people we can collaborate very closely in bringing these matters to greater public scrutiny and resolution.
But there is a growing and very justifiable sense out there that the U.N itself and its Committees are in the process of transforming the U.N. from an intergovernmental organization into a centralized governing body.
Even for the ICCL to characterise some items on the agenda as being about so called ‘reproductive rights’ which is just a euphemism for unrestricted access to abortion is deeply worrying. This is seen for example in the call of the ICCL for a ‘new national implementation mechanism to ensure that their recommendations to the State will be respected.’
What does this actually mean? For many it means that the UN and Committees like the Human Rights Committee are overstepping the mark by intruding in an aggressive manner into areas of legislation best left to the sovereignty of the Irish people.
The Committee before which Ireland must appear today has itself colluded in the publication of Reports that do not reflect the reality or outcomes of various meetings. For example followed a Jan. 16 public hearing in Geneva, several members of the U.N. committee actually complimented the Catholic Church for the steps it had taken over the past decade to prevent sex abuse and protect children. Yet the resulting document which was published by the Committee a month later did not capture the dialogue that took place and so demonstrated it was prepared ahead of time.
So we need to be careful about what can effectively achieved in terms of honest dialogue here today and always reserve Ireland’s right to simply ignore ‘recommendations’ dressed up as ‘obligations’,” concluded Deputy McGrath.