The Seanad Public Consultation Committee on Travellers, “Travellers Towards a more equitable Ireland post-recognition”, this week heard from legal rights group FLAC, which made a number of recommendations based on its experience of the JUSTROM programme – a Council of Europe pilot project aimed at promoting equality of opportunity and anti-discrimination for Roma and Traveller women.
In its opening statement to the Committee, FLAC expressed its concern at the level and extent of unmet legal need that Travellers experience across a number of areas, particularly regarding access to Traveller-specific housing, standards of accommodation, evictions and discrimination in access to good and services (including licensed premises).
FLAC recommended critical amendments to the Civil Legal Aid and Equal Status Acts, as well as immediate review and update of the Guidelines published in 1998 regarding the design and delivery of Traveller Accommodation. It proposed amending the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 2019 to include transient, temporary and permanent halting sites. FLAC also recommended that the Defamation Act 2009 should be reviewed in tandem with the ongoing review of the Prohibition of Incitement To Hatred Act 1989, so as to ensure an accessible civil remedy for hate speech.
At the Committee hearing Eilis Barry, FLAC Chief Executive, stated:
“Access to justice is integral and essential for social inclusion. Rights are only effective if they can be enforced. However there is no legal aid for discrimination claims before the Workplace Relations Commission, no matter how complex or important the issue is, how little resources the potential complainant has and irrespective of the capacity of the individual to represent him or herself.”
She called on the Minister to take the necessary steps to designate the Workplace Relations Commission as a body in respect of whom the Legal Aid Board may provide legal aid. She added that it was also important that there was clarity about entitlement to legal aid in housing and eviction cases. FLAC had drafted and furnished to the Minister an amendment to the Civil Legal Aid Act, 1995 which would clarify the entitlement to legal aid.
Click here for FLAC’s opening statement.
Click here for FLAC’s submission.