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Ireland commits to signing Optional Protocol on economic, social and cultural rights

The protocal provides a mechanism for individuals to make complaints to the UN about the violation of their rights.

Image: Harshil.Shah via Creative Commons

THE GOVERNMENT has confirmed it will sign up to the Optional Protocol to the UN’s International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights which provides measures for complaints by individuals who believe their economic, social and cultural rights have been violated.

Domestic complaints procedures must be explored and exhausted before a complaint can be raised with the UN under this Optional Protocol.

Thirty-nine states, nine of which are EU member states, have signed up to the protocol but just seven have ratified it so far. The measures will come into effect three months after ten states have ratified it.

Ireland’s formal signature of the protocol will take place at the UN headquarters in the coming weeks, after which ratification will be considered.

Announcing the government’s decision, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said that he was “delighted that Ireland is in a position to support the Optional Protocol and to help strengthen UN human rights protection mechanisms”.

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter said that the government is “deeply committed to the protection and promotion of human rights” and it is “constantly reviewing and improving” its human rights and equality structures.

“The complaints mechanism established by the Optional Protocol to the ICESCR is in keeping with the spirit of the many independent complaints, monitoring and inspection bodies that are currently in place in Ireland,” he added. “In signing this Optional Protocol, we continue to affirm our determination to achieve full respect for human rights in practice.”

The decision was welcomed by Amnesty International as a move which would strengthen human rights protections for people living in Ireland.

The organisation’s executive director in Ireland Colm O’Gorman said the decision was a sign of the government’s willingness to take the need for protecting rights regarding issues such as housing and health seriously.

“Ireland will be joining a number of European countries who have signed this treaty and by doing so is showing real leadership on the international stage,” O’Gorman said, adding: “We hope the government will move ahead swiftly with ratifying the treaty.”

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