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'Set floor for economic and social rights'
Pic: RollingNews.ie

15 Feb 2023 / ireland Print

'Set floor for economic and social rights'

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) has called on the State to enshrine economic, social, and cultural (ESC) rights in the Constitution.

The human-rights body wants the right to food, housing, social assistance, and medical care to be constitutionally protected in the same way as civil and political rights.

In a policy statement published yesterday (14 February), the commission recommends the establishment of an Oireachtas committee on the issue, which would be given a mandate to produce a draft constitutional text for consideration by the Oireachtas.

“Explicit constitutional protection ensures that economic, social and cultural rights are taken seriously as core rights concerns, and not treated as lesser than other rights protections,” IHREC said in a statement.

COVID impact

It added that, in particular, ESC rights protected groups at risk of exclusion and marginalisation, such as those with disabilities, women, lone parents, elderly people, and minority groups.

IHREC said that many of these groups were hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, and were now facing further challenges from higher inflation.

Chief Commissioner Sinéad Gibney said that ESC rights would set “a floor below which we will not allow people to fall”.

‘Enforceable’ rights

The human-rights body’s paper also wants the proposed committee to formulate constitutional language that will guarantee “justiciable and enforceable” ESC rights, while having due regard to the functions of each branch of government.

It also calls for the constitutional changes suggested by the Citizen’s Assembly on Gender Equality – that article 41.2 be replaced with a non-gender-specific clause that obliges the State to take reasonable measures to support care within the home and wider community – to be considered in the context of the addition of ESC rights more generally.

IHREC adds that any move to insert ESC rights into the Constitution should be supported by “appropriate policy and statutory measures”.

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