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Discussion of Ireland’s Second State Report under the UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhumane, Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT) with the UN Expert Committee 

 

28 July 2017 

 

Chairman, distinguished members of the Committee, ladies and gentlemen. 

 

Before passing over to members of our delegation to answer individual questions, I would first like to thank the Committee for their level of interest, research and detailed questions in examining Ireland’s second Report under the UN Convention. 

 

A lot of the questions asked refer to chapters in our past. These are legacy, historical issues of which we are not proud. We recognise and apologise for the serious wrongs that were made in the past and where we can, we will try to remedy these wrongs. Ireland is now an open, modern and progressive society. We are anxious to get things right in our country. Our international reputation is also very important to us. 

 

Mr Chairman, I welcome the opportunity to engage with your Committee, which I see as a critical friend and whose advice and direction we greatly value. It is crucial for us not to be complacent. We are here to listen and to learn from the Committee and from civil society to make improvements and to progress. Human rights are at the forefront of our foreign policy and it is important to us that we are engaged in a positive way nationally and internationally. 

 

The presence in Geneva of a large representation from civil society groups, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission and the State, shows Ireland’s commitment to address human rights concerns. 

 

In our discussions yesterday following on from the Committee’s hearing, I note that over 140 questions were asked. There is limited time to respond to all the questions asked but we will try to answer as many as possible today and look forward to the continued engagement and follow up with the Committee after the hearing today. 

 

I note that the Committee asked a number of questions requesting statistics and data yesterday. In order to use our allocated time effectively and to answer as many questions as possible today, in some of these cases we propose to forward the statistical data requested, in writing, after the hearing. 

 

I welcome the engagement with the Committee today and I am pleased to note the Committee’s acknowledgement of Ireland’s progress in key areas such as reducing overcrowding in prisons, improving prison conditions and practically eliminating slopping out, the commitment to involve the Ombudsman in the prisoner complaints process and the independence and mandate of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission. 

 

I look forward to further discussions today and our continued engagement on issues raised.