Unfair budget cuts 'may face legal challenge'
Unfair or “disproportionate” austerity measures introduced in next month’s budget could be challenged in the courts, a human rights conference in Dublin has heard.
Prof Aoife Nolan of University of Nottingham law school said successful cases against austerity measures had been taken in a number of European jurisdictions.
These included a decision by Latvia’s highest court that a cut in pensions to ease the state’s deficit violated people’s rights as it failed to guarantee a minimum level of protection while other “more proportionate” options were available.
The court concluded “an international loan agreement doesn’t trump constitutional rights”, Prof Nolan said. “Could you potentially bring a case here? Absolutely.”
The constitutional amendment on children’s rights could be invoked to combat child poverty.
However, both judges and lawyers have been “extremely slow to engage with what they term distributive justice issues, essentially economic and social rights affecting things like health and housing – the rights that are most important to poor people really”.
The conference, organised by Amnesty International Ireland, heard of growing concern across Europe about the impact of the recession on human rights.
Ignacio Saiz from the Centre for Economic and Social Rights, said there was a “contradiction” at the heart of the EU between its stated social policy goals and the austerity programmes promoted by the European Commission and the ECB, in conjunction with the IMF.
Criticism was also voiced about the remit of the constitutional convention, due to meet for the first time on December 1st. Calling on the new assembly to include social and economic rights in its deliberations, Amnesty’s programmes director Noeleen Hartigan said: “The issues they have prioritised – voting age and terms of office for the President – are not crucial issues facing Ireland right now.”
In an Amnesty poll this year, 78 per cent of respondents supported the idea of the convention looking at how to protect the right to adequate housing, while 81 per cent said it should examine healthcare rights.
The mandate for the convention is to examine seven possible areas where the Constitution might be reformed, including overseas voting rights and same-sex marriage.