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Human Rights should not be playing second fiddle to the economy – Cullinane

24 November, 2011

The importance of recognising and protecting the rights of Citizens on a firm international, and statutory footing cannot be underestimated, according to Sinn Féin Senator David Cullinane.

The Sinn Féin leader in the Seanad was speaking during the course of a Seanad discussion on the ‘Importance of the Seanad to me as a Human Rights Activist’, given by former Irish President and UN Human Rights Commissioner, Mary Robinson.

Speaking during the course of the debate, the Waterford Senator said:

“Mary Robinson’s commitment to human rights should serve as an example to all of us as public representatives. She was tireless in campaigning for women’s right to sit on juries, retain their employment after marriage, campaigning for the right to legally available contraception and more recently her work for the Irish diaspora.

“People often get complacent regarding human rights. But right now, we are unfortunately seeing how human rights are playing second fiddle to the economy. The proposed merging of the Equality Authority and the Irish Human Rights Commission highlights that fact.

“Putting rights on a statutory footing is essential so that Citizens can actively vindicate and assert their rights. There are many areas in which such a footing is outstanding in Ireland. The introduction of a Bill of Rights in the north, containing economic and social rights protections, was agreed at the Good Friday Agreement, yet it remains an outstanding commitment on the part of both governments.

“Indeed we believe that ultimately there needs to be an All-Ireland bill of rights. This would have to include socio-economic rights, and we have long argued that many of these rights ought to be included in the constitution.

“The right to healthcare, the right to housing and the right to education cannot be considered luxuries or frivolities. They are absolute basics, no one should be forced to go without them and citizens should have the ability to assert these rights if they are denied them.

 “We must remain vigilant in ensuring that the people’s human rights are observed, and that in this time of economic crisis, that economic expediency is not used as a pretext for undermining the rights of citizens.” ENDS

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