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Minister Roderic O'Gorman will speak at the meeting today (file photo) Eamonn Farrell/
Universal Periodic Review

UN to review Ireland's record on human rights, conversion therapy and Traveller discrimination

Minister for Equality Roderic O’Gorman will lead the Irish delegation and deliver a speech at today’s hearing.

IRELAND IS SET to have its human rights record reviewed by the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group today.

Minister for Equality Roderic O’Gorman will lead the Irish delegation and deliver a speech at the hearing this afternoon.

The meeting is being held in Geneva, but the minister and officials from his department will attend the UPR virtually.

Today’s hearing marks the third time Ireland’s record will be reviewed by the UN group – previous reviews took place in October 2011 and May 2016.

Other UN member states submitted questions in advance of today’s hearing.

Issues raised in the questions put to Ireland include the country’s record on LGBTQIA+ rights and conversion therapy, women’s rights, human trafficking, discrimination against Travellers and the Roma community, and the government’s response to the final report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes.

Speaking ahead of the hearing today, Minister O’Gorman said: “In the five years since Ireland last attended the periodic review, we have made huge strides in progressing the human rights of many of our citizens. This includes repeal of the Eighth Amendment, the recognition of Traveller ethnic identity, and the ratification of the UN Convention of Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

“However, we still have further to go. I look forward to briefing the United Nations on our plans to end Direct Provision, introduce new legislation against hate crime and hate speech, and respond to the legacy of Mother and Baby Homes.”

In relation to conversion therapy, a spokesperson for the minister confirmed to The Journal that the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth has “tendered for research on conversion therapy to support the development of legislation”.

An exact timeline for this research has yet to be confirmed.

Questions from other UN member states

Several countries have submitted questions for Ireland ahead of today’s review.

Germany has submitted a number of queries, including the following:

  • How will Ireland support and compensate the victims of Mother and Baby Homes? How and when will Ireland implement the recommendations made by the Commission of Investigation, and which, if any, further measures will be taken?
  • Which concrete aims will Ireland take, and when, to end discrimination against Travellers and Roma, especially women, and which mechanisms will be put in place to ensure progress in the fields of Traveller Health, Education, Political Participation, Employment, Housing, and others? How can Ireland ensure that local authorities fully spend Traveller accommodation budgets?

Spain has also raised the government’s response to the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes, among other issues. It’s asking the following questions:

  • The Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation released its long-awaited report on January 12, 2021. The report provides evidence for the damage caused over decades to thousands of women and children in 18 homes across Ireland between 1922 and 1998. It made 53 recommendations, including compensation and recall. Has an effective benchmarking mechanism been put in place to monitor compliance with these recommendations?
  • What specific measures has Ireland taken to increase women’s representation in decision-making positions in all areas, close the gender pay gap and eliminate strong gender role stereotypes?
  • Human trafficking satisfies the demand for labor from a number of activities: prostitution and other forms of commercial sexual exploitation, forced mendacity, restaurants, hotels, domestic work, construction, agriculture and entertainment. Does Ireland have a set of policies aimed at reducing the demand for bonded labor?

Panama’s questions raise LGBTQIA+ rights and how Ireland plans to tackle so-called conversion therapy, among other issues:

  • Panama (previously) recommended that Ireland accede to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. What is the status of implementation of this recommendation?
  • What steps have been taken for the return and repatriation of foreign fighters and their families from conflict zones, including rehabilitation and reintegration strategies?
  • How Ireland protects LGBTIQ persons against violence and harmful practices, such as the so-called “conversion therapy”?

The UK has also raised the issue of human trafficking, asking:

  • Is Ireland considering placing the non-punishment principle on statutory footing to ensure that victims of human trafficking are not criminalised for acts committed as a direct consequence of being trafficked?

Periodic review of the human rights records

The UPR is a process which involves a periodic review of the human rights records of all 193 member states of the United Nations.

Since its first meeting was held in April 2008, all member states have been reviewed twice within the first and second UPR cycles.

During the third UPR cycle, states are again expected to highlight steps they have taken to implement recommendations posed during their previous reviews which they committed to follow-up on, as well as to highlight recent human rights developments in the country.

The three country representatives serving as rapporteurs for the review of Ireland today are Sudan, Germany and Ukraine.

This UPR session was originally scheduled to be held in May 2021, but was postponed due to Covid-19 restrictions.

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