UN report criticises stance on abortion

A large Pro Life demonstration in January 2013. Photograph: Alan Betson

A large Pro Life demonstration in January 2013. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

A UN human rights report has criticised Ireland for its lack of access to information on abortion services, the policing of the Corrib gas project and lack of legal protection for whistleblowers.

It has also repeated criticisms of prison conditions and expressed concerns over the Garda Ombudsman Commission’s “excessive dependence” on the Department of Justice.

In a detailed report on her visit here last November, the UN special rapporteur Margaret Sekaggya noted that while Ireland was conducive to the practice of human rights defence, there remained areas of concern. Her trip included meetings with key Government officials as well as human rights defenders.

Whistleblowers

Key among the recommendations were that the offence of “blasphemy” should be removed from legal framework, the creation of an entirely independent Garda Ombudsman and the introduction of legislation to protect whistleblowers.

She also called on the Government to legislate on the X case. The call came as part of an overall critique of Ireland’s stance on abortion which, she said, oversaw “one of the most restrictive laws in Europe regarding the termination of pregnancy whereby abortion is a criminal offence”.

Of particular note was the limited access to information on abortion due to legislation insisting on face-to-face meetings which can lead to the exclusion of “women who live in isolated or rural areas, young women, women in State care and/or migrant women”.

“Moreover, the special rapporteur is concerned at reports and evidence received during her visit indicating the existence of a smear campaign and stigmatisation of defenders and activists working on abortion issues,” she wrote.

Corrib gas

Ongoing tensions surrounding the Shell Corrib gas scheme also featured in the report with concerns on both sides highlighted.

Ms Sekaggya met “various groups of local residents and was able to confirm the frustration that exists among those who are standing up for their rights, who feel powerless, isolated and have lost their confidence in public institutions.

“While opposition to the project has been mostly peaceful”, she noted that “there have also been reports of violent criminal acts committed in the context of the protests, including damage against Shell property”.