State Report paragraphs 3-29
FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres) welcomes the Third Report of Ireland under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), required under Article 16 of the Covenant.
The State Report, submitted in 2012, covers the period from 2002 up to 31 December 2010, meaning that the information will be more than four years old at the time of Ireland’s examination by the Committee, due to take place in June 2015. The State was almost five years overdue in complying with its reporting requirements under the Covenant.1 The period since 2010 has been particularly important for economic, social and cultural rights in Ireland.
The State was last examined by the Committee in 2002. In the interim, Ireland experienced an unprecedented period of economic growth and a property bubble fuelling state income (the ‘Celtic Tiger’) followed by a devastating economic recession. In December 2010, principally as a result of the need to guarantee and stabilise Ireland’s banking system, the Government entered into a European Union (EU)-International Monetary Fund (IMF) financial assistance programme under which it was granted an €85 billion bailout.2 The EU-IMF bailout agreement imposed budget restrictions requiring €15 billion in savings to curtail public expenditure. It set out certain conditions including a rise in the pension age, the introduction of multi-year expenditure ceilings, a cut to the minimum wage (which was later reversed) and the introduction of water charges.
The EU-IMF bailout agreement was adjusted following a change of Government in 20113 and an Economic Management Council was established comprising four high-ranking government ministers.4 This Council, with the status of a Cabinet Committee, meets in private to make decisions related to ‘economic planning and budgetary matters, the economic recovery programme, including the representation of Ireland internationally in negotiations’ with the Troika, made up of the EU, IMF and the European Central Bank.5 This decision-making forum has a significant impact on the socio-economic rights of many people reliant on State services including healthcare, social security, housing and education. But there is little or no evidence that the human rights of those affected have been taken into account by the Council.
During her 2011 mission to Ireland, the UN Independent Expert on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights provided a more up-to-date analysis of the State’s position in relation to economic, social and cultural rights.6 She noted the difficult financial situation in Ireland at the time and stressed the importance of the State’s compliance with its international human rights obligations, in particular calling on Government to ensure that marginalised groups were not impacted disproportionately.7
Although the State exited the bailout on 15 December 2013, the Government has indicated that austerity measures will continue to remain in place.8
- 1 Information obtained from the website of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
- 2 European Union/International Monetary Fund Programme of Financial Support for (2010) Ireland: Programme Documents, Dublin: Merrion Street.
- 3 In February 2011, a new Fine Gael/Labour Government came to power. In its Programme for Governmentthe Coalition deferred the reduction of the deficit to three per cent until 2015 with a view to eliminating it completely by 2018.
- 4 The Council comprises the Taoiseach (Prime Minister), Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister), the Ministers for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform.
- 5 Taoiseach, Enda Kenny TD, Dáil Debates: Questions, [6654/11], 13 April 2011.
- 6 Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (2011) Report of the UN Independent Expert on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, Magdalena Sepúlveda Carmona to the Human Rights Council, Geneva: OHCHR. At the time of the visit the position was that of Independent Expert but in June 2012 it was elevated to the status of Special Rapporteur.
- 7 Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (2011) Report of the UN Independent Expert on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, Magdalena Sepúlveda Carmona to the Human Rights Council, Geneva: OHCHR, p.8.
- 8 Government of Ireland (2014) Programme for Government: Annual Report 2014, Dublin: Department of Taoiseach, paragraph 12, p.7.