Theme : Re-imagining the Republic – the role of human rights.
Location : Ireland Institute, 27 Pearse Street, Dublin 2.Date : Saturday, April 18th.
years of enforced austerity with associated massive increases in
poverty have convinced many in Ireland of the urgent need to question
single option responses to the economic and social crisis. Much of the
misery inflicted since the collapse, underlined by the fact one third
of the population now lives in material deprivation, resulted from the
abandonment of social responsibility in favour of facilitating the
accumulation and protection of wealth in the hands of a minority.
As Ireland edges closer to the centenary celebration of the final events that forged a new Republic, the Sheehy Skeffington School affords an opportunity to consider how a human rights framework can help shape a society based on equality, inclusion and social justice. The principles underpinning the foundation of the Republic have been fundamentally compromised and need to be reviewed, revised and reasserted. This journey will require taking ownership of a process to reinforce and bring rights home and the school aims to broaden that endeavour.
Since the last School in Spring 2014, some positive developments have occurred with the establishment of the new Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission. The Constitutional Convention also introduced a refreshingly open discussion on many matters of human rights and made clear recommendations to address outstanding civil rights and put economic, social and cultural rights protection on a constitutional footing. Civil society groups are mobilising around many issues including women's, children's and migrant rights. The serious threats to Traveller and Roma rights from poverty, racism and discrimination are evident. While the human rights infringements inherent in the direct provision system are finally getting a more public hearing, there is urgent need to afford rights to work, to live in decent conditions and to see children's rights as paramount. The School will explore these themes. Twenty years after the UN Beijing Women's Conference declared women's rights as human rights, it will also address the contemporary relevance of such understanding implicit in the actions and beliefs of the Sheehy Skeffingtons 100 years ago.
Despite the growth of individualism and challenges of racism and poverty, there is evident and mounting desire for the political, ethical and social change necessary to secure a just and equitable society in Ireland and globally. The school offers a space to reflect, to link past and present, and to explore how these ambitions can inform a process of social change. It can play a role in helping to build wider engagement with human rights frameworks to shape discourse and action over coming years to that end.