State body accused of ‘misleading’ on debate
The State-funded Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission has been accused of misleading the public in the debate on same-sex marriage after allegedly ignoring a vital case.
The IHREC has insisted that civil marriage for couples of the same sex is a human right. However, a number of experts have challenged this and pointed out that “there is nothing approaching the universal consensus that would be necessary to claim that same-sex marriage is a human right”.
The IHREC indicated in its policy statement released last week that it “believes that the opening out of civil marriage to two persons without distinction as to their sex is a matter of equality and human rights”.
However, a team of experts, including leading barrister Patrick Treacy, and theologians Prof. Eamonn Conway and Dr Rik Van Nieuwenhove has rejected this pointing to the fact that fewer than 10% of countries worldwide recognise same-sex marriage legally.
Writing in The Irish Catholic this week, the experts also accused the IHREC of ignoring a key ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) which they insist proves “there is no basis for the contention that same-sex marriage is a human right”.
In the case of Hamalainen v. Finland, the ECtHR reaffirmed that the European Convention on Human Rights cannot be interpreted “as imposing an obligation on contracting states to grant same-sex couples access to marriage”.
This case’s omission from the IHREC’s statement is “serious and needs explanation”, the experts claim. Dr Van Nieuwenhove said the omission in the IHREC’s statement is “misleading if not downright deception”.
“It misrepresents the situation altogether,” he insisted, pointing out that “the European Court of Human Rights is the highest arbiter of what is a human right in the law of this country. How an allegedly neutral body could leave out reference to such a case is beyond comprehension. It raises questions about their neutrality in this debate,” Dr Van Nieuwenhove said.
Speaking separately to this newspaper, Prof. Conway said it is “vital” that the IHREC are “free from all ideological bias. We depend on publicly funded bodies such as the IHREC to protect the basic rights of the most vulnerable in society. It is vital that their position on important public matters such as this referendum would clearly be seen to be free from all ideological bias,” he said.