United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: Third Periodic Report on Ireland

The Irish Government was examined by the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on the 8th and 9th of June in Geneva. The UN Committee comprises of a group of 18 independent international experts, who examined the Irish State’s progress in protecting, respecting and promoting the rights contained in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

The Committee was established under ECOSOC Resolution 1985/17 of 28 May 1985 to carry out the monitoring functions assigned to the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in Part IV of the Covenant.

The role of the UN committee is to place pressure on governments to fulfil their obligations under the UN conventions by identifying political and administrative failings. Unfortunately no sanctions are available however the committee issues observations which highlight issues thereby publicly exposing the concerns which in turn places pressure on the governments to implement changes.

Government representatives spent two days explaining and defending policy decisions affecting low income families and disadvantaged and minority groups including asylum seekers.

A delegation led by the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs Seán Sherlock faced questions from the UN on how it has complied with obligations under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. A number of Irish civil society organisations also presented an independent view of the Government’s track record, in a formal meeting with the UN Committee.

The government clashed with the state’s equality watchdog and the civil society organisations over their claims that the poorest, including asylum seekers living in Direct Provision Accomodation have borne the brunt of the recession here.

Emily Hogan from the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission heavily criticised the government maintaining that fiscal consolidation had taken priority over human rights, resulting in family poverty and high youth unemployment. In speaking about Direct Provision she described it as a ‘severe violation of human rights’.

Direct Provision was a considerable concern of the committee who concluded in their report that this administrative system violated a number of rights of asylum seekers. Asylum seekers continue to live in inadequate and poor communal accommodation for extensive periods of time, are prevented from working, and are required to live on a meagre sum of €19.10 per week per adult, and €9.60 per week, per child.

The Committee will release its formal, written concluding observations and recommendations on the reports of Ireland towards the end of its three-week session, which will conclude on 19 June 2015.

Sinnott Solicitors look forward to release of this report and hope that the observations will result in the government overhauling the Direct Provision system and implementing positive changes to respect, protect and fulfil the economic, social and cultural rights of asylum seekers living in Ireland.