This Monday and Tuesday, Atheist Ireland will be in Geneva, Switzerland, briefing the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights before the Committee questions Ireland on its human rights obligations.
We will be working alongside our colleagues in other Irish civil society groups, pictured above, from:
- Abortion Rights Campaign
- Atheist Ireland
- Community Law and Mediation
- Free Legal Aid Centre
- Irish Family Planning Association
- Justice for Magdalenes
- Pavee Point
- Public Interest Law Alliance
- Tallaght Trialogue
- Dr Liam Thornton, UCD
We will be live tweeting on Monday and Tuesday using the hashtag #UNIRL
The Irish groups collectively will be highlighting Ireland’s breaches of human rights under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, on behalf of a wider alliance of over eighty groups which, coordinated by FLAC and PILA, produced a parallel Irish report for the UN Committee.
The issues on the agenda include non-discrimination and progressive realisation of rights, gender equality, the right to work, the right to just and favourable conditions of work, the right to organise, the right to social security, the right to protection of family life, the right to an adequate standard of living in food, clothing and housing, the right to health, the right to education, the right to free primary education, and the right to a cultural life.
Atheist Ireland will be specifically highlighting that:
This Covenant obliges Ireland to guarantee the rights within it without discrimination. Ireland repeatedly fails to do this, particularly in the education system.
Ireland still has no non-denominational schools, at primary or secondary level. Primary schools are still publicly funded private bodies, almost all Christian, with a near-monopoly on a vital public service, and no effective remedy to vindicate Covenant rights.
Ireland systemically breaches the Covenant rights of atheists and non-Christians, in the Education Act, Admissions to Schools Bill, Equal Status Act, Employment Equality Act, Civil Registration Act, religious oaths for political and legal jobs, our blasphemy law, our abortion law, and the lack of an effective remedy.
Our Minister for Education, and our Minister of State for Equality, have both recently said that a Constitutional Referendum would be needed to remove discrimination against atheists in our education system.
So not only are Ireland’s anti discrimination laws incompatible with the Covenant, our Constitution itself is also incompatible with the Covenant, and there is no effective remedy through the courts to vindicate the rights guaranteed by the Covenant.