Irish rights commission can copy North’s legal action on abortion

Route open for Dublin-based body but would involve Strasbourg decision on Republic law

The existing law in Northern Ireland only allows for abortions in cases where a woman’s life is at risk or there is a serious risk to her mental or physical health. Photograph: Getty Images

The existing law in Northern Ireland only allows for abortions in cases where a woman’s life is at risk or there is a serious risk to her mental or physical health. Photograph: Getty Images

 

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission can copy the Northern Ireland legal action that led to a ruling that its abortion laws breach the European Convention on Human Rights, two members of the commission have said.

However, an application by the Dublin-based body would involve the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg deciding whether Irish constitutional law on abortion was in breach of the convention, as against common law, as was the case in the Belfast ruling.

Any ruling that Ireland was in breach of the convention would create an obligation to rectify the breach – by way of a referendum if necessary – according to Prof Siobhán Mullally of UCC, a member of the commission.

Similar case

David Joyce

“There are shortcomings in the legislation in the Republic. It is something in my view that needs to be addressed,” he said.

Both Prof Mullally and Mr Joyce emphasised that they were speaking personally and not seeking to represent the opinion of the commission.

The human rights body, which is headed by chief commissioner Emily Logan, is to meet on December 16th, though it is expected to examine the political debate surrounding the Eighth Amendment in the new year.

The existing law in Northern Ireland only allows for abortions to be carried out in cases where a woman’s life is at risk or there is a serious risk to her mental or physical health.