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Niamh Reilly
2015
January
Essex Human Rights Review Volume
Gender Justice and Ireland’s Human Rights Council Commitments: Challenging the Gaps between Rhetoric and Practice
Published
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United Nations, Human rights council, Ireland, gender equality, women
As Ireland commences its first three-year term on the United Nations Human Rights Council, this article highlights the gaps between the pledges that Ireland made during its campaign for election to the Council and its record on domestic implementation of human rights commitments, with particular reference to gender. Among the key pledges made by Ireland were commitments to: timely reporting to UN treaty bodies, upholding human rights at home, working to eliminate racial disrimination, combating gender based violence, promoting gender equality, championing UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security, and effectively addressing the deficiencies in Ireland's human rights record identified during the Universal Periodic Review of Ireland in 2010. The prominence of gender commitments among Ireland's Human Right Council pledges is striking. It stands in stark contrast to the ongoing aggressive retrenchment in Ireland's domestic gender equality machinery since the start of the economic crisis in 2008 and the continuing refusal to recognise the many human rights implications of Ireland's highly restrictive laws on abortion. In the case of each pledge, the article demonstrates yawning gaps between Ireland's diplomatic rhetoric and its domestic practice, especially regarding the rights and equality of women and minorities. Eroding the credibilty of the pledges made in its bid for a seat on the Human Rights Council, Ireland's relatively young domestic machineries for implementing and monitoring progress on its human rights and equality commitments have been dimantled or radically reduced over the past five years while doubts have also been raised about the independence of the much diminished machinery that remains. The author argues that if Ireland is to be a credible or effective champion of human rights while on the Council, it must begin by reinvesting in its domestic rights and equality machineries and assertively narrowing the gap between its own rhetoric and practice, especially in relation to gender equality and gender-based violence on which Ireland has built its reputation internationally.     
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