Coronavirus and civil liberties


Sir, – I read with concern Liam Herrick’s article “There is no conflict between human rights and public health measures” (Opinion & Analysis, April 1st).

The executive director of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties cogently argues that human rights are not grounded in individualism but rather seek to balance the interest of the individual with that of the community.

I strongly disagree.

The accused in a criminal trial has the right to due process even if granting such would be detrimental to the public interest. Likewise, members of An Garda Síochána cannot unlawfully detain a citizen and rely on community wellbeing (or consent) to validate their actions before a court.

In his dissenting opinion in DPP v JC, the late Justice Adrian Hardiman remarked that there “are few countries, nowadays, which do not boast some form of constitution or charter of rights which purport to recognise and honour the personal and human rights of the citizen. But there are far fewer countries where those rights are actually honoured in practice.”

As the citizens of this country face unprecedented restrictions on their liberty, without due process or the right of appeal, this sentiment should be remembered. It is so easy for human rights to be “balanced” away. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 7.

Sir, – Liam Herrick of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties writes that human rights are not about “individualism”.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948, vests those rights in “the dignity and worth of the human person”, leading to the conclusion that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”

Human rights are expressly about the individual. – Yours, etc,


Gaoth Dobhair,

Co Dhún na nGall.