A.3 Access to Justice for People on Low Incomes

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Access to justice for people on low incomes is not only limited by the potential high cost of taking a legal action including in public interest cases,1 but also by the legislative restrictions placed on the state-funded civil legal aid system.2 In 2011, the UN Independent Expert on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, during a fact-finding mission to Ireland, noted her concern that ‘several areas of law that are particularly relevant for people living in poverty’ were excluded from the scope of the Legal Aid Board.3 The vast majority of advice and representation by the Legal Aid Board relates to family law.4 The Legal Aid Board is precluded from providing representation before most appellate tribunals including social security appeals, employment appeals or in repossession proceedings, all of which have become more relevant in recessionary times. The only exception to this is representation before the Refugee Appeals Tribunal, but even this is limited as civil legal aid for asylum seekers deals only with the refugee determination process.

1 Public Interest Law Alliance (2010) Public Interest Litigation: The Costs Barrier & Protective Costs Orders Report, Dublin: FLAC.

2 Civil Legal Aid Act 1995.

3 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.4.

4 Legal Aid Board (2013) Legal Aid Board Annual Report 2012, Cahirciveen, Legal Aid Board, p.18.

Last Updated: 22/01/2015 ^ back to top