UN watchdog asks State to clarify abortion policy

United Nations Committee Against Torture (Uncat) queries limitations in the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act

The United Nations Committee Against Torture (Uncat) has queried limitations in the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act, adding to reservations about the new legislation expressed recently by a separate UN watchdog.

Uncat has asked the Government to clarify “the scope of legal abortion through statutory law [in Ireland], including in cases of rape” and “whether the Offences against the Person Act 1861 [which banned abortion] has been repealed”.

List of issues
In its latest list of issues for examination of Ireland, the committee has also queried the independence of the McAleese inquiry into Magdalene laundries, and whether the corporal punishment of children in Ireland has been prohibited in all settings.

Similar questions were posed to the Irish Government earlier this month by the UN Human Rights Committee in advance of its appearance before that committee in Geneva next July.


On the Magdalene issue, Uncat asked, “since the McAleese Committee did not have power to compel evidence, and only to receive what was forwarded voluntarily, please explain why the State party considers that it has obtained all the relevant evidence and facts?”

It continued: “Please clarify how the McAleese Committee, comprised of representatives of the government agencies involved with the running of the Magdalene laundries, can be considered as definitive solely because the chairperson was independent.”

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is Religious Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times