Expert group on abortion ruling to report by July


THE EXPERT group tasked with making recommendations on implementing a European Court of Human Rights ruling on abortion will report to the Government by July, Ireland’s ambassador to the UN has confirmed.

Gerard Corr, who appeared before the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva yesterday, said several countries had made reference to Ireland’s position on abortion and response to the judgment in October, when the State first appeared before the council for peer review.

“The expert group, which was established on January 13th, 2012, is composed of 14 experts in the fields of obstetrics, psychiatry, general practice, law, professional regulation and public policy. It is chaired by a judge of the Irish High Court [Mr Justice Seán Ryan] and will present the Government with its written report by end of July this year,” Mr Corr said.

He said of the total 127 recommendations made by member States, Ireland had accepted fully 91. A further 17 had been accepted in part, while 19 had not been supported by Ireland.

Meghan Doherty, speaking for the Irish Family Planning Association at the council, said Ireland had rejected six recommendations on “reproductive rights” from Spain, Denmark, the UK, the Netherlands, Norway and Slovenia.

“The outright rejection of these recommendations, along with the continued criminalisation of women in Ireland who need access to safe abortion, is astonishing in a State that expresses such respect for human rights,” she said.

Patrick Buckley, speaking on behalf of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, said “the right to life of all members of the human family” was recognised and protected by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Irish Constitution. He said the will of the Irish people had been expressed through a number of referendums.

Mr Buckley claimed other countries had attempted to instruct Ireland to introduce abortion. “We very much appreciate the fact that the Irish delegation has firmly rejected those calls.”

In December 2010, the European Court of Human Rights found that the Irish State had failed to implement existing rights to a lawful abortion where a mother’s life is at risk. While it is lawful for a woman to have an abortion if her life is at risk, following a Supreme Court ruling, successive governments have not legislated for this.

Meanwhile, Martin Collins of Pavee Point said he was disappointed at the rejection of a recommendation from Slovakia that Travellers be recognised as an official minority.

“We Travellers are incredibly proud to be Irish and willing and demanding to play our part in the Irish nation.”

Responding later, Mr Corr said it was not clear that there was complete agreement within the Traveller community that recognition as an ethnic group would be a desirable or useful step. He also said there was no objective basis for allegations made by the Iranian delegation at the council. An Iranian spokesman had been strongly critical of Ireland, saying he was concerned about incidents of discrimination against Muslims and others.

Mark Kelly, director of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, who hosted a live screening of the Geneva meeting in Liberty Hall yesterday, said progress on implementing recommendations that had been accepted was slow.