Progress, or the lack of it, on a range of human rights issues in Ireland will be scrutinised by the United Nations today and tomorrow.
Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald is leading a Government delegation to the UN's Human Rights Committee in Geneva, where she will face two days of questioning on such issues as Traveller ethnicity, redress for women who endured symphysiotomy, continued church dominance of schools, discrimination against people with intellectual disabilities and women's reproductive rights.
Some 16 civil society organisations, representing sections affected by the issues, will give brief oral presentations to the committee this afternoon. They will also have opportunities to speak informally to committee members at a session after lunch. This 45-minute session is considered more important for the NGOs, in terms of influencing members to question the State delegation on particular issues.
Minister Fitzgerald and her team of officials will then come before the committee for three hours this evening and three hours tomorrow morning.
The State is being examined on its compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Ireland signed in October 1973 and ratified in December 1989.
Every signatory state must appear before the committee periodically – usually every four years. This will be Ireland’s fifth time; its last was in 2008.
The 18-member committee includes four women. Allmembers are nominated by signatory states and elected by the entire UN membership. They are independent, unpaid and come from a variety of backgrounds including law, academia and politics.
The committee is chaired by Sir Nigel Rodley, from Britain, and co-chaired by Yadh Ben Achour from Tunisia and Margo Waterval from Suriname. It has no Irish members.
NGOs here include the Irish Traveller Movement, Pavee Point, Survivors of Symphysiotomy, Inclusion Ireland, Penal Reform Trust, the Immigrant Council of Ireland, the Abortion Rights Campaign, Terminations for Medical Reasons, Doctors for Choice, Atheist Ireland and the Pro-Life Campaign.
The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission will also be represented.