A letter delivered to the Government today (29 July) has called on the Minister for Justice to ensure that a forthcoming review of the civil legal-aid scheme will address what it calls “the issue of unmet legal need in Ireland”.
The letter has been signed by a range of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), charities, non-profit groups, and advocates, as well as a union that works with vulnerable and marginalised people.
They want a commitment that the upcoming review of the civil legal-aid system will be “comprehensive, meaningful, transparent, inclusive and participatory, incorporating the voices of citizens and stakeholders with first-hand experience of civil legal aid in Ireland”.
“Our request is based on the experience of meeting the needs of the people we work with, people who are often excluded from society, without the means to vindicate their rights,” said Eilis Barry (pictured) of FLAC, the organisation that campaigns for improved access to justice.
‘Person of status’
The letter says that the review must look at the functions of the Legal Aid Board – including the provision of information, advocacy, education and research.
It also wants the review to examine the eligibility criteria for legal aid, as well as the areas of law that should be covered, and how services should be delivered.
The groups say that the review should be chaired by a “person of status”, such as a judge with an interest in access to justice.
The letter calls for the review to measure the civil legal-aid system against international standards, and compliance with the State’s obligations under national and international human-rights law.