News

A letter to Claire Byrne Live

I emailed the Claire Byrne Live programme this evening. They cannot say they did not know.

* * *

Date: 9 January 2017 at 20:22
Subject: URGENT: Claire Byrne Live 09/01/2017
To: clairebyrnelive@rte.ie

Dear all,

I understand that tonight’s Claire Byrne Live (Monday, 9th January 2017) is to include Nicholas Pell among the speakers on the programme. Presumably, this will relate to a discussion on far-right extremism or similar.

I am urgently calling on the Claire Byrne Live team not to run with this item. As broadcasters, you have an ethical, moral and legal duty not to engage in such dangerous acts.

The right to freedom of expression is not absolute. It is limited. These restrictions are found in international treaties, such as the ICCPR and ECHR, and were included as a direct response to the events which led to the violent atrocities of the Second World War. Per ICCPR Article 19:

The exercise of the rights provided for in […] this article carries with it special duties and responsibilities. It may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary:

(a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others;
(b) For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.

 

These principles inform the Prohibition on Incitement to Hatred Act, 1989, as well as the provisions of the Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Bill 2016. And they are found in the Broadcasting Act 2009, Section 39(1)(d):

39.— (1) Every broadcaster shall ensure that—

(d) anything which may reasonably be regarded as causing harm or offence, or as being likely to promote, or incite to, crime or as tending to undermine the authority of the State, is not broadcast by the broadcaster

 

Mr Pell is an avowed far-right extremist. This is publicly known, and he does not deny it. These are precisely the circumstances envisaged by the drafters of the exemptions to freedom of expression in the aftermath of World War II.

As Franz Frison, an Irish survivor of Holocaust, wrote in a letter to The Irish Times on 12 December 1988:

Having experienced fascism in the flesh […] If fascism could be defeated in debate, I assure you that it would never have happened, neither in Germany, nor in Italy, nor anywhere else. Those who recognised its threat at the time and tried to stop it were, I assume, also called “a mob”. Regrettably, too many “fair-minded people” didn’t try to stop it, and, as I witnessed myself during the war, accommodated themselves with it when it took over.

[…]

People who witnessed fascism at its height are dying out, but the ideology is still there, and its apologists are working hard at a comeback. Past experience should teach us that fascism must be stopped before it takes hold again of too many minds, and becomes useful once again to some powerful interests […].

 

I campaigned for marriage equality in 2015. Though the outcome was that which we sought, our volunteers experienced sneers, insults, and physicial assaults – some so severe that the Gardaí investigated. I recall that during Germany’s Weimar Republic, a nascent movement for decriminalisation of homosexuality had begun. Just a few years later, these people were being sent to their deaths in concentration camps by the Nazis.

This is not a game. You who are now reading this email may not realise the real danger of proceeding with tonight’s programme and this item, including Mr Pell. However, there are many amongst your colleagues and viewers who do.

I urge you to accede to my request.

Yours sincerely,

Fail to prepare, prepare to fail: Ireland’s marriage referendum

 

Yesterday, the day after Leo Varadkar’s coming out, the first shots of Ireland’s marriage referendum campaign were fired.

What the day’s discussions across national radio and television revealed – to me, at least – is that the Yes campaign is wholly unprepared and has been outmanoeuvred at the outset.

Although there are four months of this to go, the initial skirmish has undeniably been won by the No advocates.

The debates yesterday demonstrated that the No side has, as in other debates in the past, mastered the three key elements needed for success:

  • Political opportunity
  • Framing
  • Mobilisation
  •  

    Already, the Yes advocates are on the back foot. This seemed apparent to me in the morning, listening to Newstalk FM.

    By midnight, it was absolutely beyond doubt, in my view, that Monday, 19th January 2015 saw a resounding victory for the No campaign – before the campaign has even begun.

    Here’s how I think they achieved that.

    (more…)

    On “the equal right to life of the mother”

     

    The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.

    Above, Article 40.3.3° of Bunreacht na hÉireann,
    as inserted in 1983 by the 8th amendment to the Constitution.

     

    Today, a case comes before the High Court of Ireland to decide whether a 16-week pregnant woman who has died must remain on artificial life support interventions to vindicate the Constitutional right of the foetus.

    In this case, “the right to life of the unborn” applies to a foetus that is not viable outside of the womb; while “the equal right to life of the mother” applies to a deceased woman.

    Is it possible here to respect, defend and vindicate (“as far as practicable”) the right to life of a foetus, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, where the mother has already died?

    What is being equated in these circumstances?

    What is the right to life of the deceased?

    How does a deceased person fit into the equation presented by Article 40.3.3°?

    This is a dreadful and horrific case. Whether any of these questions will arise in court today remains to be seen.

     

    The US Senate’s CIA report and Ireland

     

    Earlier tonight, on the eve of International Human Rights Day, the United States Senate report on the use of torture by the CIA (PDF) was finally made public.

    Compiled by members of the Democratic party on the Senate Intelligence Committee, the report details the scale and range of techniques used during the detention and interrogation of individuals in the custody of the CIA, post-2001. According to the Committee chair, Dianne Feinstein, these techniques amounted to torture. As noted by Channel 4 News this evening, many of the techniques detailed in the report were not previously publicly known.

    Where does Ireland feature?

    Where is Ireland situated in the context of these latest revelations?

    (more…)

    The problem with Clare Daly’s proposal on bodily integrity

     

    I saw this on Twitter this morning:

     

    Clare Daly TD proposal tweet 400x313

     

    The proposal by Clare Daly TD is to insert the following into Article 40 of the Constitution, replacing the existing Article 40.3.3°:

    The state acknowledges right of all citizens to personal autonomy and bodily integrity.

    Presumably the intention here is to remove the restrictions around abortion in Ireland, which many have argued have led to abortion effectively being exported abroad, most especially to England.

    This is the existing text of Article 40.3.3°, which was insterted following a referendum in 1983:

    The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.

    One of the problems with Daly’s proposal is that it is exclusive, affecting only “citizens.”

    This wording creates a category of individuals in the state whose right to personal autonomy and bodily integrity is recognised – citizens of Ireland – and a category of individuals whose right to personal autonomy and bodily integrity is not recognised – those who are not citizens of Ireland.

    One obvious consequence of this approach is that a situation such as the case of Miss Y from earlier this year remains unaddressed.

    Thus, a fundamental right that is made contingent on citizenship status is no right at all.

     

    The “right to travel” has always been denied to asylum seeking women

     

    Ever since my time working with refugees in Ireland (from 2007 until 2011), I have been troubled by the effective blanket bar on allowing asylum seekers to leave the State.

    This emanates from Section 9(4) of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended):

    Leave to enter or remain in State.

    Section 9(4) An applicant shall not—

    (a) leave or attempt to leave the State without the consent of the Minister […]

    Irish citizens are free to exit Ireland’s borders and, being citizens of a member state of the EU, have the freedom to travel to over 28 European countries without the need to apply for a visa application and a grant of permission from immigration officers to cross borders.

    Most other people residing in Ireland with an officially recognised immigration status have the freedom to exit Ireland in a similar way. In practice these are generally citizens from countries outside of the EU. Whether from Canada or Cameroon, those seeking to travel within the EU, therefore, will need to apply for permission to enter another EU state.

    Asylum seekers are in a class of their own. They must seek the permission of the Justice Minister of the day if they wish to leave the territory of the state. (They must also, if the consent of the Minister has been obtained, seek permission from the other state to enter.)

    Asylum seekers in Ireland are seeking international protection from this state. While the rationale behind requiring such a person to remain within this jurisdiction throughout the duration of their application is understandable, this blanket rule is inherently problematic.

    During the almost five years of my work with refugees I encountered significant numbers of women who claimed to have been subjected to various forms of violence and torture, including sexual violence. Some were subjected to trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation. Some came from conflict zones, where the systematic use of sexual violence is used as a weapon of war. Some had become pregnant as a result of rape. Some had been subjected to intimate partner violence before or after arriving in Ireland. Some were children under the age of 18, including separated children in the care of the HSE.

    None of them could exercise their right to travel, if they so wished and had the resources to do so, without the consent of the Minister for Justice.

    This remains the case today.

     

    Getting it first, but not getting it right: An example of journalistic failure?

    • You can contact Samaritans in Ireland on 1850 60 90 90 -or- 116 123 -or- jo@samaritans.org, and in Northern Ireland on 08457 90 90 90

     

    Diario El Universo. Image: © Alfredo Molina/Creative Commons 3.0
    Diario El Universo. Image: © Alfredo Molina/Creative Commons 3.0.
    Image: © Alfredo Molina/Creative Commons 3.0

     

    This morning, An Garda Síochána in Dublin closed of part of a city centre thoroughfare due to a major incident.

    The incident, which had been unfolding from around mid-morning and which has reportedly now been resolved successfully, attracted significant attention among members of the public using Twitter. Some of these people posted written comments; some of these people posted images.

    Not long afterwards, well-known Irish journalists, blogs, publications and broadcasters were on the story. They, too, posted comments and images of the incident on social media, as well as on their own websites.

    Shortly after that, several members of the public (including me) posted comments, as well as replies, on Twitter to draw attention to the Samaritans Media Guidelines for reporting on such incidents.

    To their credit, some individuals and blogs removed their tweets and content from their websites. To their shame, the established media organisations did not; instead, they continued to update their social media accounts and online reports with live updates, photos, videos, embedded tweets, and so on. (To date, many of these remain available to view.)

    Image: Screengrab: @Oireachtas_RX (Oireachtas Retort) - 11:46 AM, 1st July 2014

    Image: Screengrab: @Oireachtas_RX (Oireachtas Retort) – 11:46 AM, 1st July 2014

     

    The problems with the reporting on today’s incident

    (more…)

    Direct Provision centres: Local electoral areas

    The local and European elections take place this Friday, 23rd May 2014.

    Further to the Irish Refugee Council’s letter for local election candidates, and based on a Written Answer from Alan Shatter TD to a Parliamentary Question put by Mary Lou McDonald TD (25th March 2013), I have drafted a PDF list of the local electoral areas (and local authorities) where Direct Provision centres are based.

    Direct provision centres local electoral areas. Click for PDF.

     

    This has been put together quite quickly, and may contain some errors. All suggestions for correction or amendment are welcome.

    Round-up: Local elections, asylum seekers & the right to vote

    I wrote last week about the attempt by the Reception & Integration Agency to impede access by election canvassers to voters living in Direct Provision centres. Below is a round-up of related coverage across the media.

    (Any omissions are mine, and unintended. Please let me know if you think there is anything else that should be included.)

    A Direct Provision centre in Dublin. Image: Google Streetview

    A Direct Provision centre in Dublin. Image: Google Streetview

    Tuesday

     

    Wednesday

     

    Thursday

     

    Friday

    “You’re not from Galway, at all.” Who may vote in local & EU elections?

    Yesterday, Oliver Callan shared a video from the Galway Advertiser, filmed on 9th May and published on 13th May last. It depicts protesters confronting An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny TD, while canvassing last week.

     

    During the exchange with one of the protesters, Kenny responds by saying:

    You’re not from Galway, at all.

    The woman he’s addressing has an accent which could be from northern England. Callan, in his tweet, describes Kenny as having patronised the woman. The Galway Advertiser asks, “What did Enda Kenny mean by that question?”

    This week, the week after this encounter in Galway, the news emerged of a state agency impeding the access of local election canvassers to voters in Direct Provision centres – a situation which remains unchanged.

    Aside from the fact people from Ireland come in a variety of colours, accents and creeds, in any event this has very little to do with local and European elections. You do not need to be from Ireland to have the right to vote in local and European elections.

    (more…)