The Right to Bodily Integrity
The Right to Bodily Integrity is an unenumerated right, protected under Article 40.3.1 of the Irish Constitution which provides that:- “The State guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate the personal rights of the citizen.”
In GLADYS RYAN Plaintiff v. THE ATTORNEY GENERAL Defendant (1962. No. 913 P.) it was pronounced that:- “ I understand the right to bodily integrity to mean that no mutilation of the body or any of its members may be carried out on any citizen under authority of the law except for the good of the whole body and that no process which is or may, as a matter of probability, be dangerous or harmful to the life or health of the citizens or any of them may be imposed (in the sense of being made compulsory) by an Act of the Oireachtas.”
Bodily integrity is the inviolability of the physical body and emphasizes the importance of personal autonomy, self-ownership, and self-determination of human beings over their own bodies. In the field of human rights, violation of the bodily integrity of another is regarded as an unethical infringement, intrusive, and possibly criminal.
The ICHR is concerned that the Irish Government may attempt to erode the Right to Bodily Integrity through the introduction of laws or coercive measures which shall require citizens of this State to submit to a programme of mandatory vaccinations in the not too distant future. The ICHR does not consider this to be an unreasonable concern, in part due to the fact that in 2019, then Minister for Health Simon Harris sought advice from the Attorney General as to the legality of introducing mandatory vaccines in the State and also considering that some 11 European countries (namely Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Poland and Slovakia) already have mandatory vaccinations programme in place.
The erosion of the Right to Bodily Integrity is of particular concern to the ICHR and it shall work tirelessly in defence of this freedom.
Freedom of Expression
Freedom of Expression is protected under Article 40.6.1 of the Irish Constitution which provides that, subject to public order and morality, the State guarantees liberty for the exercise of:- “the right of the citizens to express freely their convictions and opinions”.
On the 24th of October 2019, Minister for Justice, Charlie Flanaghan and Minister for Equality, Immigration and Integration, David Stanton, launched a public consultation on hate speech with a view to updating the existing law under the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act, 1989. During this announcement, the Minister for Justice also noted that hate speech laws were only one element of a wider suite of measures being developed by the Irish Government to “address hatred and intolerance, including the development of hate crime legislation”.
Professor Jordan B. Peterson said: – “The problem with regulating Hate Speech, it’s very simple, who defines Hate? Answer to that is, over any reasonable period of time, exactly the people you would least want to have define Hate. And so, the consequences of the regulation become incalculably worse as a problem, than the problem they were designed to deal with. To think otherwise is to think in a sort of Utopian manner.”
The right to free expression is an inalienable human right and it underpins all other human rights, such as the right to Freedom of Thought, Conscience, Religion, Association and Assembly – this is what makes Freedom of Expression so important.
At the ICHR, we believe that the introduction of legislation which seeks to interfere with the inalienable right to Free Expression to be an unjust and immoral intrusion into individual freedoms.
The Right to Life
The Right to Life – The following referendums on the Right to Life have taken place in the State to date:
On the 7th of October 1983, the Irish people agreed to amend Article 40 of the Irish Constitution by acknowledging the right to life of the unborn, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother – this is known as the Eight Amendment.
On the 25th of November 1992, three proposals were put to the Irish people, the Twelfth, Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments to Article 40 of the Irish Constitution. The people rejected the Twelfth Amendment and approved the Thirteenth Amendment (which provided freedom to travel between Ireland and another state would not be limited in connection with abortion services) and Fourteenth Amendment (which provided that there would be no limitation on freedom to obtain or make available information relating to services lawfully available in another state, in connection with abortion services).
On the 6th of March 2002, a proposal for the Twenty-fifth Amendment to the Irish Constitution was put to the people and was rejected. This proposal concerned the Protection of Human Life in Pregnancy.
On the 18th of September 2018, the Irish people agreed to amend Article 40 of the Irish Constitution to allow provision to be made by law for the regulation of termination of pregnancy.
The Right to Life has been the subject of many referendums to date, illustrating the changing views of the Irish people with regard to this important topic. Many who advocate for abortion services would prefer that this issue never be put to the people again, however, as more information on the number of abortions and the circumstances surrounding abortions becomes available, and as the laws surrounding abortion services become more divisive (as they undoubtedly will), the ICHR consider that it would be just and reasonable to put this issue to the Irish people once more and shall advocate accordingly.
The Right to Peaceful Assembly
The Right to Peaceful Assembly is protected under Article 40.6.1.ii of the Irish Constitution which provides that, subject to public order and morality, the State guarantees liberty for the exercise of:- “the right of the citizens to assemble peaceably and without arms”.
This fundamental right, which affords every citizen of the State the freedom to peacefully dissent, has been under threat for several years, with the Irish Government signalling their wish over the past couple of years to introduce “Protest Exclusion Zones” or areas deceptively labelled “Safe Zones” to limit where free citizens may peacefully assemble and express dissent. The many who see the introduction of such “Safe Zones” as justifiable, fail to recognise that if the Irish Government can introduce such “Safe Zones” for one type of protest, they can introduce “Safe Zones” for all types of protests.
Furthermore, through the introduction of Health (Preservation and Protection and Other Emergency Measures in the Public Interest) Act, 2020, the right to meet peacefully has been suspended indefinitely by the Irish Government under the guise of the common good until a time at which the Irish Government sees fit to reinstate this right.
At the ICHR, we find the erosion of this fundamental freedom to be of particular concern.
Freedom of Movement
Freedom of Movement is an unenumerated right, protected under Article 40.3.1 of the Irish Constitution which provides that:- “The State guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate the personal rights of the citizen.”
The right to Free Movement means that every citizen in the State has a right to move freely within the State. However, through the introduction of the Health (Preservation and Protection and Other Emergency Measures in the Public Interest) Act, 2020, this fundamental right has been curtailed by the Irish Government to the extent that they have drafted into law “reasonable excuses” which permit your travel, outside of which, travel is considered a criminal offence.
Varying levels of restricted movement have been imposed on citizens in the State under the guise of the common good. With Garda checkpoints, fines and prison sentences being imposed to restrict your right to Freedom of Movement, it is clear that this right is truly fragile and is subject to being restricted, or indeed suspended indefinitely by the Irish Government.
Freedom of Thought, Belief and Religion
Freedom of Thought, Belief and Religion is protected under Article 44 of the Irish Constitution which provides that:- “the State acknowledges that the homage of public worship is due to Almighty God. It shall hold His Name in reverence, and shall respect and honour religion. Freedom of conscience and the free profession and practise of religion are, subject to public order and morality, guaranteed to every citizen.”
During the year 2020, under the Health (Preservation and Protection and Other Emergency Measures in the Public Interest) Act, 2020 the Irish Government have made it a criminal offence for citizens in the state of Ireland to attend at public worship and they have further made it a criminal offence for any minister of religion to hold a public religious ceremony (with the exception of funerals and weddings), noting that any breach of these laws by ministers of religion would open them to a fine of up to €2,500.00 or 6 months in prison.
At the ICHR, we believe that the introduction of legislation which seeks to interfere with the right to the free profession and practise of religion to be an unjust and immoral intrusion into individual freedoms.
The Right to Democracy
The Right to Democracy can be quickly eroded if the free citizens of a state do not exercise vigilance and participate in the running of their country by ensuring that those they elect into positions of power are held to account. In order to ensure the Right to Democracy is retained, all citizens must be prepared to be active participants in the democratic process.
The Right to Private Property
The Right to Private Property is protected under Article 43.1.1 of the Irish Constitution which provides that:_ “The State acknowledges that man, in virtue of his rational being, has the natural right, antecedent to positive law, to the private ownership of external goods.”
The Irish Constitution, however, at Article 43.2.1, also acknowledges that these rights ought to be regulated by the “principles of social justice”, meaning that the State may pass laws limiting your right to private property in the interests of the common good. The most common form of limitation to the ownership of private property, currently operational in the State, is taxation on ownership, transfer and inheritance.
At the ICHR, we believe that the individual has a right to ownership of private property and we would consider it unjust for the Irish Government to limit ones right to private property based on their definition of the “common good”.
The ICHR believes the right to private property is constantly under threat, but in the year 2020 it is under substantial threat due to the proposed Thirty-Ninth Amendment to the Constitution (Right to Housing) Bill 2020, which proposes:-
“3 1 The State, in particular, recognises the common good as including the right to secure, affordable, dignified housing, appropriate to need, for all the residents of Ireland and shall guarantee this right through its laws, policies and the prioritisation of resources.
3 2 The State, accordingly, shall delimit the right to private property where it is necessary to ensure the common good and to vindicate the said right to housing for all residents of Ireland.”
At the ICHR, we believe that this Bill is repugnant to the Constitution and should this Bill become law, the Irish Government shall attain the right to take your property and redistribute it as they deem appropriate.
The Family is protected under Article 41 of the Irish Constitution which provides that:- “The State recognises the Family as the natural primary and fundamental unit group of Society, and as a moral institution possessing inalienable and imprescriptible rights, antecedent and superior to all positive law. The State, therefore, guarantees to protect the Family in its constitution and authority, as the necessary basis of social order and as indispensable to the welfare of the Nation and the State.”
The ICHR is concerned that the rights of the Family are currently under threat through the introduction of the Health (Preservation and Protection and Other Emergency Measures in the Public Interest) Act, 2020 which have made it a criminal offence to gather with one’s family. However, prior to the introduction of such laws, the Irish Government’s encroachment into the rights of the Family as the “primary and natural educator of the child” as protected under Article 42 of the Irish Constitution, have been of particular concern to the ICHR, arising from the revision of the school curriculum in areas which are of concern to many parents due to their religious and moral beliefs.
The Right to Work
The Right to Work is an unenumerated right, protected under Article 40.3.1 of the Irish Constitution which provides that: – “The State guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate the personal rights of the citizen.”
The term “personal rights”, as interpreted by the courts, has led to the recognition and vindication of many rights not expressly provided for in the text of the Constitution. These ‘unenumerated rights’ include the right to bodily integrity, the right to marry and the right to earn a living, among others.
The State has a general duty to protect your right to work and earn a livelihood from unjust attack, however, in 2020 we have seen the gravest attack on the right to earn a living being perpetrated by the State.
The right to earn a living is fundamental to freedom as it is the foundation for the realisation of other human rights and for life with dignity.
At the ICHR we shall work to restore the protections surrounding this basic human right and hope to launch a legal action in early 2021 to realise this aim.