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Sunday 27 May 2018

Don’t let Constitutional Convention fail on health, housing and income rights Taoiseach is urged

Sarah Stack

Sarah Stack

TAOISEACH Enda Kenny has been called on to put people's economic, social and cultural rights at the heart of any change to the constitution.

More than 20 equality and human rights groups have warned that the Government's proposed Constitutional Convention is in danger of failing to achieve its objective to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

In an open letter to the Taoiseach, the organisations highlighted the need for it to examine a number of fundamental human rights, including equal access to healthcare and housing.

Colm O'Gorman, executive director of Amnesty International Ireland, said the convention also needed to consult with civil society groups.

"Rights such as health, housing and adequate income affect every single person in this state," he said.

"Surveys show an overwhelming majority of Irish people want these areas examined by the convention.

"It would be an incredible missed opportunity if it doesn't happen."

Amnesty, Atheist Ireland, Focus Ireland, the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network, Irish Penal Reform Trust and Siptu are among the organisations which signed the letter sent to Mr Kenny and Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore.

They said it was vital Government maximised public participation and engagement in the work of the convention and considered a meaningful consultation with civil society groups.

Mr O'Gorman said the Programme for Government stated the aim of the convention was to ensure the constitution could face the today's challenges.

"But successive Irish governments fail to translate our international human rights commitments into Irish law," he said.

"At a time when we have less money available to deliver essential services and difficult decisions have to be made about how we spend our limited resources, protecting rights such as health, housing and adequate income has never been more important.

"This convention has the potential to give citizens the opportunity to have an active role in shaping our constitution, the fundamental statement of our values as a society.

"With the establishment of the convention imminent, Government must open up the agenda, and allow for the examination of these rights and the protections they afford."

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