Oireachtas Committee hears findings from IRC-funded public interest law seminar series

The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality heard findings from a unique series of seminars examining the connections between legal action and social change in Ireland, including the impact of public interest law and litigation and the attendant need for reforms to facilitate greater access to justice, on November 25 2015.

The ‘Changing Ireland, Changing Law’ series was organised by Dr Mary Rogan, Head of Law at Dublin Institute of Technology and Professor Ivana Bacik of Trinity College Dublin in partnership with the Public Interest Law Alliance, a project of FLAC, which was funded by the Irish Research Council's 'Engaging Civic Society' strand of the 'New Foundations' scheme. Dr Rogan and Professor Bacik addressed the Justice Committee along with Rachel Power of PILA on the series findings, following a presentation in the AV room of the Oireachtas for other members.

The series examined how law has affected Irish society, showcasing public interest campaigns on women’s rights, LGBT rights, immigration and asylum and public interest litigation. The seminars heard from many of the individual litigants who took landmark cases to advance wider change, as well as lawyers, academics and civil society organisations who also partnered on the project, namely the National Women’s Council, the Gay & Lesbian Equality Network and the Immi­grant Council of Ireland. 

The Committee was briefed on the general themes emerging from the series indicate general barriers for people seeking to access justice in Ireland, including:

  • High legal costs and lack of legal supports for ordinary people to navigate a complex and expensive process.
  • The considerable personal impact on individuals who take public interest cases.
  • State bodies and systems can often be non-transparent and complex, such that people need considerable help to access them.  
  • People are also negatively affected by delays endemic in both the legal system and state systems generally.

 

The project will also result in an edited collection with contributions from former litigants, lawyers, NGOs and academics to be published in 2016. 

Image: Professor Ivana Bacik, Professor Mark Bell, Senator Katherine Zappone, Brian Sheehan, Senator David Norris, Dr Ann Louise Gilligan and Dr Mary Rogan. Copyright Maxwell Photography.