The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) has called for a review of what it describes as the “draconian” legislation to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a new report, the body says that, 15 months into the crisis, there have been “democratic failings” in the processing of such legislation, which should have a final sunset clause.
Earlier this week, the Dáil voted to extend emergency powers until November, when they can be continued for another three months.
'Over-reliance' on police powers
The ICCL report, Human Rights in a Pandemic, identifies what are described as “serious shortcomings” in the Government’s handling of restrictions.
While acknowledging that the Government has done well in protecting the rights to life and to health, the report says there has been an over-reliance on police powers, instead of good communications and decent supports.
The ICCL says expanded police powers must end, arguing that they damage the relationship between the police and the general population.
“The evidence from behavioral science is that they are not effective,” it adds.
Call for MHQ to end
The body also calls for more resources to address the backlog in court cases.
The report says that some groups — such as older people, Travellers, children, and women — have suffered much more than others because of the restrictions.
The rights body calls for fundamental rights, such as protest and worship, to be explicitly protected, adding that both can be exercised in a way that protects people from disease.
The ICCL describes mandatory hotel quarantine (MHQ) as a form of detention, calling for it to end unless basic standards such as inspections, review and appeals processes are applied.
The report also finds “problematic and potentially arbitrary and discriminatory approaches” to identifying what states are on the quarantine list.
The group also wants the COVID tracker app to be discontinued, if evidence on its efficacy cannot be provided.
ICCL Executive Director Liam Herrick said the pandemic had shown us how inter-connected we are, and how reliant we are on each other for our health and wellbeing.
“Yet during the pandemic, existing inequalities were exacerbated,” he said.
“As we restore the rights and freedoms restricted during the pandemic, we must restore them on an equal basis for everyone,” said Mr Herrick.