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Austerity measures undermining human rights – campaigners

AUSTERITY measures are undermining human rights for people living in Ireland, campaigners have claimed.

An international conference on economics and human rights was told decisions made in next month's budget will directly affect people's access to essential services.

Colm O'Gorman of Amnesty International Ireland, which is hosting the conference in Dublin, said: "The Government is determined to fulfil its obligations to the bondholders and institutions like the ECB and the IMF.

"But Ireland promised the UN Human Rights Council last year it would protect human rights here during the economic crisis. So what about its obligations to the Irish people, to protecting our rights to housing, health and education?

"Decisions made in the budget next month will directly affect people's access to essential services that Ireland has acknowledged are fundamental human rights.

"But there is little evidence the Government is taking this obligation seriously, despite a commitment in the Programme for Government requiring 'public bodies to take due note of equality and human rights'."

Yesterday more than 2,000 people with disabilities and their families protested outside the Dail against any more cuts to services and for their rights to be acknowledged.

The conference examined the impact of austerity on human rights and how other countries, many across Europe, have successfully used constitutional human rights protections to direct funding to particular services and to evaluate austerity measures proposed by governments.

Key speakers included Ignacio Saiz from the Centre for Economic and Social Rights, which earlier this year published Mauled by the Celtic Tiger, a human rights analysis of the economic crisis in Ireland and its impact on people.

Elsewhere Professor Aoife Nolan, chair of economic, social and cultural rights at the University of Nottingham, looked at how a number of European jurisdictions, including Germany, Latvia, Hungary and Portugal, have used constitutional protection of rights to direct resources to public services and to review austerity measures proposed by governments.

The conference also heard that polling in Ireland shows support for rights like access to healthcare and adequate housing has remained high throughout the recession, and overwhelming support for their constitutional incorporation.

Amnesty Ireland said despite this, and support from the opposition parties, the Government has refused to give the Constitutional Convention, due to meet for the first time next month, a mandate to examine these issues..

Mr O'Gorman said human rights and economics do not exist in separate realities.

"Economic decisions affect our access to human rights and we believe that the principles and frameworks of human rights law must be used by the Government to decide how it allocates resources during the current economic crisis," he added.