Cork East Fine Gael TD and Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality, David Stanton, has addressed the UN Expert Committee on Torture (UNCAT) in Geneva. Minister Stanton who led the Irish delegation was questioned by the Committee on Ireland’s Second Report under the UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhumane, Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT).
In his opening address, Minister Stanton highlighted Ireland’s strong human rights record and noted the importance of UNCAT as an international human rights instrument to protect and vindicate the rights of persons both at home and abroad. Minister Stanton also welcomed the presence of so many members of Irish civil society groups, and our Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, in Geneva and those observing proceedings online.
“There have been many positive developments since Ireland last appeared before the UNCAT Expert Committee in 2011 and I believe that this progress clearly illustrates our commitment to honouring the Convention”, said Minister Stanton.
“Some major developments have taken place with respect to prison conditions. The Irish Prison Service is close to the elimination of the practice of ‘slopping out’ with 99% of prisoners now having access to in-cell sanitation. We have also ended the practice of sending children to adult prisons this year – since 31 March all 17 year olds are committed to the Children’s Detention Centre at Oberstown, rather than to St. Patrick’s Institution.
“Progress has also been made in simplifying and streamlining the application process for asylum seekers with the formal commencement, on 31 December 2016, of the International Protection Act 2015. This will significantly accelerate the asylum determination process and by extension reduce the length of time applicants spend in State provided accommodation.
Minister Stanton also acknowledged efforts to address state failures of the past noting: “We have paid out €25.5 million to 677 women under the Magdalen Laundries Redress Scheme and anticipate that the overall expenditure of the Residential Institutions Redress Board to persons who, as children, were abused while in industrial schools, reformatories and other institutions subject to state regulation or inspection will be €1.25 billion
The Minister also highlighted the establishment in 2015 of an independent Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes to examine what happened to vulnerable women and children in these institutions in the years 1922 to 1998.