We were very pleased to attend the PILA/PILS conference on Friday 11th November held in the wonderful setting of Croke Park. The conference, entitled ‘Political Commitment, Practical Protection: Using the ECHR North and South’ featured speakers who provided insight into the implementation of the European Convention of Human Rights both in the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and Great Britain.
FLAC solicitor Michael Farrell provided an interesting analysis of his involvement in the transgender case of Lydia Foy and how Ireland was found to be in breach of the terms of the Convention. Gerry Hyland, human rights solicitor practicing in Belfast provided a practical guide on how the ECHR has been relied on and developed through a broad spectrum of litigation in Northern Ireland. Several workshops provided key information on how the articles of the Convention have been and can be relied on in various areas of public interest law including: Child Law, Mental Health, Travellers and Housing. It was extremely educational and useful to hear speakers representing both North and South on key problem areas arising within public interest law affecting residents throughout Ireland.
The audience were however captivated by one speaker in particular as Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty in the UK spoke eloquently about the importance of upholding human rights standards across borders. Changes to the human rights scheme in the UK would be a negative step according to Ms. Chakrabarti who spoke about the coalition government’s proposal to make human rights and fundamental freedoms more contingent on citizenship and good behaviour: "Crude and ignorant attacks on the Human Rights Act in the UK should be troubling to friends of freedom further afield. How bizarre to talk up universal human rights abroad whilst seeking to dilute and diminish them at home. Fundamental rights and freedoms cannot be contingent on any particular patriot status," commented Ms Chakrabarti.
Speakers emphasised the growing need to ensure equivalent protection of fundamental freedoms and human rights both North and South given the current political climate and given the guarantees provided by the Good Friday Agreement.
We would like to thank PILA/PILS for their excellent organisation and for the effort they put into organising this year’s conferences which was enjoyed by all.