New Annual Law Review Edited by NUI Galway Law School Member
Monday, 24 May 2010
At a recent event in Dublin hosted by the Public Interest Law Alliance (PILA), a project of the Free Legal Advice Centre (FLAC), the Ombudsman, Emily O'Reilly, launched a new scholarly review, Irish Human Rights Law Review (IHRLR), to be published on an annual basis by Clarus Press. The IHRLR is edited by Donncha O'Connell of the School of Law, NUI Galway who is currently a Visiting Senior Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Human Rights, London School of Economics. The inaugural edition of the Review contains articles and case notes by, among others: Hon. Justice Michael Kirby of the Australian High Court, Professor Rick Lawson of the University of Leiden, Colm Ó Cinnéide of University College London, Siobhan Cummiskey, Solicitor, Senator Alex White, BL and Dr Alpha Connelly, former CEO of the Irish Human Rights Commission. There are also contributions from NUI Galway academics Professor Pat Dolan, UNESCO Chair in Children, Youth and Civic Engagement as well as Marie McGonagle, Ciara Smyth, Dr Padraic Kenna, Dr Laurent Pech and Emer Meeneghan of the School of Law. The Review, which should be of interest to academics, students, practitioners and activists working in the field of human rights, will focus on the domestic application of international human rights law and the critical analysis of human rights standards and processes. Opening the event, Michael Farrell, Solicitor for FLAC and member of the Irish Human Rights Commission, said: "At a time when the human rights of many vulnerable people are under attack as a result of the economic crisis, and the state s human rights and equality infrastructure has been undermined by disproportionate budget cuts, the launch of the Irish Human Rights Law Review is particularly timely." In her speech the Ombudsman, Emily O'Reilly, said: "Reading through the contributions in the IHRLR, I note that human rights activists, academics and lawyers are at times sensitive - rightly or wrongly - to a certain allergic reaction at the mention of human rights and this needs to be addressed by all sides in the human rights debate so that too many heels are not dug in to the detriment of the citizen. I see the annual publication of the Irish Human Rights Law Review as an important step in that process. More particularly, in the aftermath of Colm McCarthy s report and his recommendations to turn back the tide on the proliferation of single-function state agencies, I also think we all need to look at the intersections rather than the divergences in the work that we do. Human rights are principally about changing mindsets rather than the legalistic application of a set of rules. Perhaps if we thought about it also as the shared public values that enhance the life of every citizen, we can improve the chances of the realisation of those shared values in visibly tangible ways. Changing mindsets involves cultural change and through the investigation of complaints, a public sector ombudsman is uniquely placed to facilitate good public administration which is based on human rights principles." Responding to the Ombudsman, the Editor of the Irish Human Rights Law Review, Donncha O'Connell, said: "It must surely now be time to consider further the question of 'constitutionalising' the office of Ombudsman, a matter that was raised by the Constitution Review Group in 1996. As we approach the seventy-fifth anniversary of the 1937 Constitution in 2012, and as the Labour Party embarks on its innovative constitutional convention in the run-up to the 1916 Centenary, it is time to look more radically at how the Irish Constitution distributes power in the state. I would suggest that the following issues of potential constitutional reform are in need of serious analysis: The reorganisation of various statutory bodies for the protection and promotion of human rights and equality under a 'constitutionalised' office of Ombudsman with a clear and strong nexus to Parliament (akin to that of the Comptroller & Auditor General); The consequential reform of the office of Attorney General to remove the potential for conflict in the role of that office as notional guardian of the public interest and legal adviser to the Government. This would have the benefit of protecting the essential infrastructure for human rights and equality in the state from political interference; and appropriate provision could be made, by means of the Constitution, for guaranteeing the independence and effectiveness of such a reconfigured framework institution." He went on to say that he hoped that subsequent issues of the Irish Human Rights Law Review would provide a platform for the rigorous discussion of this and other matters connected to human rights. The Review can be ordered on www.claruspress.ie which contains a sample of contents and the inaugural editorial.