Human rights defenders memorial planned for Iveagh House grounds

Statue will honour 3,500 killed for defending human rights

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney: the memorial will be “a testament to our commitment to working with organisations like Front Line Defenders in promoting and protecting human rights throughout the world”. Photograph: Tom Hona

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney: the memorial will be “a testament to our commitment to working with organisations like Front Line Defenders in promoting and protecting human rights throughout the world”. Photograph: Tom Hona

 

The Department of Foreign Affairs is to erect a memorial at its headquarters in Dublin to those who have died defending human rights .

The Human Rights Defenders Memorial has been developed by a charity and remembers 3,500 people who have been killed since the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders came into effect in 1998.

The memorial will located in the grounds of Iveagh House on St Stephen’s Green and will be developed in conjunction with Front Line Defenders, an organisation co-founded by businessman Denis O’Brien in 2001.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said the memorial will be an act of “remembrance of remarkably brave and inspiring individuals who paid the ultimate price in the cause of others.

“It is also a testament to our commitment to working with organisations like Front Line Defenders in promoting and protecting human rights throughout the world.”

Mary Lawlor, the co-founder of Front Line Defenders, said Iveagh House was “the right location as it had been the local for the announcement of EU guidelines on human rights defenders which were announced prior to Ireland’s EU presidency in 2004”.

The announcement coincides with the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on December 10th, 1948, as a common standard of achievements for all peoples and all nations.

President’s speech

President Michael D Higgins will mark the event with a speech on Monday at the 17th annual civil society forum in the Mansion House which is being billed as his first keynote address of his second term as President of Ireland.

Mr Higgins will point out that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that everyone has a right to a standard of living including housing, though no such right exists in the Irish Constitution.

“Vindicating that right will not, and cannot, be a matter for courts or lawyers alone, but will fundamentally be a question of how we wish our housing system to be structured. It will be, and we cannot avoid it, a question of politics.”

The President will describe the universal declaration as “one of the great moral achievements of the 20th century” and a “magnificent inheritance on humanity”.

He will address the growing reluctance in many states to welcome refugees and asylum seekers.

“Creating a popular culture of human rights has never been more urgent,” he will say. “We now witness political forces who do not even attempt to wear the mask of human rights – there are those that now openly deny rights won through long and difficult struggles and who glory in discrimination, racism and a crude, xenophobic form of nationalism.

“The danger is not only the direct political power they wield, but in the poisonous influence that they now exert on those who, for reasons of short-term political gain and in the name of a false consensus, would seek to concede to their demands. That danger is most acute, and most present, in the attacks on article 14 of the universal declaration, the right to seek and enjoy asylum, and on the Refugee Conventions.”