Amnesty International has joined forces with 19 other human rights groups to urge the Irish government to widen the scope of the constitutional convention, a forum to deliberate changes to Ireland’s constitution.
The organisations published an open letter to the Taoiseach requesting that the government not leave out a number of rights (such as equal access to healthcare and housing) from the reform process, lest the convention fail in its aim to make the constitution well suited to meet the “challenges of the 21st century”
Protecting rights such as health, housing and adequate income has never been more important
- Colm O’Gorman, Amnesty International Ireland
The groups that supported the letter include the Centre for Economic and Social Rights, Focus Ireland, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, the Irish Immigrant Support Centre, and the National Women’s Council of Ireland.
Originally, the scope of the constitutional convention was only meant to include, among other proposals, reducing the presidential term to five years, amending the clause on the role of women in the home, removing blasphemy from the Constitution, and reducing the voting age to 17.
Concerning the objective of constitutional reform, Mr Colm O’Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland, said: “Rights such as health, housing and adequate income affect every single person in this state. Surveys show an overwhelming majority of Irish people want these areas examined by the convention. It would be an incredible missed opportunity if it doesn’t happen.”
According to an Amnesty International press release, quoting a Red C poll, 78 per cent of Irish people want the convention to look at how the Constitution could protect the right to adequate housing. Furthermore, an overwhelming 81 per cent agreed that the convention should examine the right to equal access to healthcare.
“At a time when we have less money available to deliver essential services and difficult decisions have to be made about how we spend our limited resources, protecting rights such as health, housing and adequate income has never been more important,” said Mr. O’Gorman.
Amnesty stressed that Ireland had committed itself to the protection of those rights internationally by ratifying the International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which it ratified in 1989.
Furthermore, in 2002, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights strongly recommended that Ireland incorporate economic, social and cultural rights in the Constitution.
The letter additionally called upon Taoiseach Enda Kenny to include human rights groups in the debate, a demand that was voiced repeatedly by several organisations during recent weeks.
The plans so far provide for a convention consisting of 100 members. Two thirds of them will be members of the public, while one third shall be made up of members of the Oireachtas. NGOs are not supposed to take part in the process.According to Mr O’Gorman: “This convention has the potential to give citizens the opportunity to have an active role in shaping our Constitution, the fundamental statement of our values as a society. With the establishment of the convention imminent, the Government must open up the agenda, and allow for the examination of these rights and the protections they afford.”
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