Politicians are still not allowed to talk to people living in Direct Provision

[UPDATE 16th May 2014 at 9:05am]

The Dr Liam Thornton on the Human Rights in Ireland blog has summarised arguments put forward by the State in an ongoing legal challenge to the system of Direct Provision in Ireland. These arguments include the rationale behind the introduction of the system of Direct Provision.

[END UPDATE]

 

Does this remedy this? In short: no.

Not least because it seems that the Circular issued by RIA purports to maintain a prohibition on election candidates speaking with residents; nor due to the fact that RIA continues to insist on imposing a designation of “politically neutral environment” upon every Direct Provision centre in Ireland.

More fundamentally, there appears to be precisely zero basis in law for RIA’s missives.

Small change

The headline in TheJournal.ie remains a true statement: Politicians are not allowed to talk to people seeking asylum in Ireland.

The Circular which was issued within 24 to 48 hours of Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire’s initial tweets makes one change to existing RIA policy. Election candidates “may be allowed to drop off election leaflets to be picked up and read by residents if they so wish,” which “may be left in a suitable designated area” within the Direct Provision.

This is the only explicit change in RIA policy. Everything else remains as it was.

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State agency allows election literature in direct provision centres

As per the update from Dr Liam Thornton on the Human Rights in Ireland blog, there have been some developments in relation to access to election information for residents in direct provision accommodation, who have the right to vote in local elections.

Voter pamphlet. Image: Pete Forsyth (CC Licence)

Voter pamphlet. Image: Pete Forsyth/Wikimedia (CC Licence)

In a Circular issued yesterday by the Reception & Integration Agency, candidates may now leave election literature in direct provision centres. It’s available on the Human Rights in Ireland blog as a PDF, here. The Irish Refugee Council has published a transcript of it and its predecessor, here. I include the transcript below.

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Reception & Integration Agency circular on “politically neutral” environments

The following document was released some years ago to Dr Liam Thornton, a lecturer in law at the UCD School of Law, under a Freedom of Information request for any and all documents related to the legal regulation of Direct Provision.

I have included a transcript of the document further below, for ease of reading.

Reception & Integration Agency circular on Distribution or display of party political leaflets, posters or circulars, 18th July 2008

Reception & Integration Agency circular on Distribution or display of party political leaflets, posters or circulars, 18th July 2008
(Click to enlarge.)

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An interference with democratic process: the right to vote in Ireland

On 12th May 2014, I attended a conference on women in the media, during which one of the speakers, Katie Orenstein, posed a powerful question:

What is the cost to society if so many voices and minds are missing? Image: The OpEd Project-EDUlibs

What is the cost to society if so many voices and minds are missing?
Source: The OpEd Project/EDUlibs

This question is relevant including and beyond issues of sexism and exclusion of women from positions of power and influence. Yesterday, it emerged (not for the first time), that election canvassers are prohibited from canvassing at direct provision centres in Ireland.

There are approximately 4,360 asylum seekers and survivors of human trafficking residing in direct provision accommodation in Ireland. Every adult among them has the right to vote in local elections.

If candidates for political election are impeded in canvassing the views of some of their constituents, then what becomes of those views? And how can the eventually elected politicians properly represent members of society in their constituencies?

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Direct Provision centres and election canvassers

This morning, local Sinn Féin candidate, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire, claimed on Twitter that he had been prevented from accessing a Direct Provision centre in Cork in order to canvass residents. The centre houses 152 asylum seekers, each of whom (over the age of 18 years) has the right to vote in local elections.

Mr Ó Laoghaire later alleged that he had been told by centre staff that the decision was based on a “Ministerial directive” and that the state-owned centre has been designated a “neutral zone,” where no political activity is permitted.

He subsequently tweeted that he had telephoned the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA), the Department of Justice and Equality’s state agency with responsibility for reception and accommodation centres where asylum seekers and victims of trafficking are housed in Ireland.

Rang RIA.Confirmed that its a policy not to allow Canvassers in. Has to be kept ‘politically neutral’ zone. Decision by Director I’m told

He claims he was told that this was a nation-wide policy, not confined to the centre in Cork.

I telephoned RIA, the Department of Justice and Equality, and the accommodation centre to enquire about Mr Ó Laoghaire’s claims.

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Shattered island

The news was announced in Dáil Éireann this afternoon that Alan Shatter TD has resigned as Minister for Justice and Defence. Beyond the immediate political fall-out, this potentially calls into question pending and proposed reforms within the Department of Justice, including immigration and family reforms.

Waiting In Line For a Job - Fine Gael's Public meeting at the Aviva Stadium, 20th February 2011 (detail). Image: © William Murphy

Waiting In Line For a Job: Fine Gael’s Public meeting at the Aviva Stadium, 20th February 2011 (detail). Image: © William Murphy/infomatique (CC Licence)

The announcement was made by An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny TD, in the Dáil chamber, in light of Sean Guerin SC submitting his 300-page report on Garda whistleblowers. RTÉ has a copy of Alan Shatter’s letter of resignation here. The Guerin report is due to be published on Friday of this week.

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Football: Ireland -v- Russia

Tonight, Ireland face Russia in Tallaght Stadium in a crucial World Cup Qualifying fixture, following Ireland’s narrow defeat at home to Germany last month.

Ireland v Germany. Ireland players celebrate Stephanie Roche's late equalising goal against Germany, 5th April 2014. Image: © Joan O'Connell
Ireland v Germany. Ireland players celebrate Stephanie Roche’s late equalising goal against Germany, 5th April 2014. Image: © Joan O’Connell

 

Ireland will be battling Russia for second place in their Group, to secure qualification to the play-off stage of the tournament. Kick-off is at 7:30pm.

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